Highland News Leader

Highland High School opens new career center for students

Highland High School counselors were also in attendance for the ribbon cutting ceremony. From left are HHS counselors Amber Spaeth, Staci Brown, Sherry Thomas, who wrote the grant, and Mary Jackson.
Highland High School counselors were also in attendance for the ribbon cutting ceremony. From left are HHS counselors Amber Spaeth, Staci Brown, Sherry Thomas, who wrote the grant, and Mary Jackson. By Adam McDonald amcdonald@bnd.com

Graduating high school can be scary, but a new career center at Highland High School hopes to turn that fear into confidence as students for the future.

“I was very persistent throughout the application process,” said Sherry Thomas, an HHS guidance counselor who wrote and applied for the “One Stop Career Shop” grant. “I was looking for money to finish the center, and someone told me to reach out to the Rotary. I’m very excited about it.”

The grant gave the school $2,280 to put toward computers, a printer and Internet access.

“This was a great project that Sherry was very passionate about, and we felt like this was a very worthy project,” said Amy Liefer of the Rotary Club of Highland. “We usually limit grants to $500, but look at exceptions, if we don’t have multiple grant applications in a certain time period. This was the case for this grant.”

The career center’s goal is to equip all students with tools for the future and prepare them for life after graduation. And the center’s opening hasn’t come a moment too soon, as Thomas is retiring at the end of the school year after a 37-year career in education in the Highland School District.

Thomas began teaching in 1979 at St. Paul Middle School, and became a counselor at Highland High School in 1988. She was at the high school until 2007, when she moved to the middle school, but returned in 2014. That’s when she came up with the idea for the center.

“This was something I always wanted,” Thomas said. “I’m just so excited.”

Every grade, freshman through seniors, will use the career center in some way.

Freshman will be able to set up four-year plans, while sophomores can be given a headstart for college preparation. Juniors can use the center to prep for the ACT, and seniors will be able to apply for college and student loans.

“The career center project is one that will impact a lot of students for a long time,” Liefer said. “The longevity of a project and the number of students impacted is something our committee considers when awarding grants.”

The career center fits about 8-10 students, giving counselors a small, intimate group to work with, something Thomas says is her favorite part of the center.

“We realized we needed this,” Thomas said. “And the small groups are great. Some of the students can even do duel-credit courses at SWIC.”

The Highland Rotary sponsors many local, regional and international projects. The school grants are limited to the Highland School District and St. Paul Catholic School.

“This is a project that allows the school to grow services offered to students,” Liefer said. “Which is something we always want to support.”

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