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Sample Text for a School-to-Work Grant Proposal

(NOTE: This is not a complete proposal. It includes only the portions needed to support the vendor's credibility. See the Carl Perkins Funding Guide for further text.)

Program Abstract

Career Choices is a program designed to address career and life planning topics of concern to young people. Its goals are to demonstrate the relevance of education (thus motivating teens to apply themselves to their studies), to help adolescents establish and consolidate identity, to foster ambitious yet realistic career plans, and to teach the skills and attitudes necessary for success at home and on the job in the twenty-first century.

The curriculum meets these admittedly ambitious goals by focusing on something of infinite interest to teens: themselves. The engaging text takes students through a sequential series of activities that help them uncover the traits, interests and other characteristics that make them unique and valuable. Armed with this information, they move through another series of exercises that helps them decide what they want from their lives--and how education relates to this satisfying future lifestyle. Next, students learn the skills and attitudes that will help them attain their goals. And, finally, they write a 10-year plan examing step by step how they intend to achieve the job, the life, of their dreams.

The curriculum has been used successfully with gifted students and those with learning disabilities, college prep and Tech Prep populations, minorities, dropouts, pregnant and parenting teens, and more. It is difficult to think of a group of young people who wouldn't benefit from this program. We believe one of its beauties is that, without preaching, it leads young people not only to respect themselves but to also appreciate the value of others.

Program History

Recognizing the need to educate young women about careers, money and self-sufficiency, Mindy Bingham and Sandy Stryker began working on a book called Choices: A Teen Woman's Journal for Self-awareness and Personal Planning (Advocacy Press, 1983). It received national media attention and was immediately hailed by parents and educators who agreed that material of this kind was desperately needed.

At the same time, other persistent voices raised the question, "What about the boys?" They had a valid point. And, besides, few schools were willing to set up programs exclusively for girls.

A year later, the authors published a companion version of the text, Challenges: A Young Man's Journal for Self-awareness and Personal Planning. Although some of the material was necessarily different (girls needed to think more about jobs that paid enough to live on, boys needed to pay more attention to balancing their personal and professional lives, for example), the book was designed so that it tracked with Choices and could be used in the same classroom.

But problems remained. The books did not fit into the traditional core curriculum, so most schools either reluctantly passed on the program or used it only for select groups (e.g., in dropout prevention programs or with pregnant or parenting teens).

What to do? Clearly, all students would benefit from a comprehensive career guidance program. But the materials needed to be infused into the core curriculum if that was to happen. Mindy Bingham was the first to see how a program of this kind could fit into an English/language arts class.

She and Sandy Stryker began writing Career Choices. Mindy quit her "day job" and stared her own publishing company to bring Career Choices about. Possibilities, an anthology of literary selections, soon followed, making it easier for many educators to see how the two subjects fit together. With the publication of Lifestyle Math, the curriculum became truly interdisciplinary. The online 10-year planning tool My10yearPlan.com® and other Internet enhancements incorporate technology training to further broaden the scope of the curriculum, making it more appealing and relevant to students and offering ways for schools to easily teach skills that will benefit young men and women as they pursue higher education or go on to enter the workforce.

The curriculum is now used in more than 4,300 schools.

The Program Philosophy

The guiding philosophy behind the Career Choices curriculum is that, by teaching needed skills and providing necessary information, we can change the world one life at a time. More specifically, we believe that:

  1. Today, every adolescent needs career guidance. Unskilled jobs are disappearing fast, and they're not coming back. Programs like Tech Prep and School-to-Work are great, but they ask young people to make huge life decisions at an age when few have given their life goals much thought, or are sophisticated enough to understand even basic concepts like the cost of living. In most high schools, there is one guidance counselor for every 500 students, and he or she spends the better part of the day dealing with troubled youth and crisis control. The average student's best hope for getting help is through a program like Career Choices -- one that includes group activities and self-help, that enlists classroom teachers to assist counselors, and still allows counselors themselves to provide specialized guidance or to intercede as needed when problems arise.
  2. Some populations need special help with career and life planning. Girls, for example, are still less likely than boys to think they will need to support themselves, though more than half of all women now work even when their children are less than a year old. They still tend to take or plan for jobs in fields traditionally dominated by women -- retail sales, clerical, nursing and elementary education, for example -- without considering income or day-to-day job flexibility, factors that are likely to have a major impact on their ability to support and care for their families.

    Even young women who do well in school are at risk. Good grades are often at least partly the result of taking less demanding classes. When learning doesn't come easily, a common response is to drop the class or scale back ambitions. Of the brightest high school students who do not go on to college, the overwhelming majority are female.

    Young people with disabilities, those from a disadvantaged background, or students who may be the first in their family to pursue higher education also need special attention.

    Career Choices addresses all these issues and others, offering general encouragement and support, as well as specific advice on being assertive, taking responsibility for one's own life, overcoming anxiety, taking calculated risks, and so on.

  3. Establishing and consolidating identity is an important task for all adolescents. Peer pressure and a natural wish to "belong" make it difficult for young people to experiment, discover new facets of their personality, and become authentic individuals. Teens who see few options for their future often skip or abbreviate the process of discovering their interests and abilities, personality traits, values, and other unique features. Instead, they may "adopt" the identity of a friend or other close associate.

    Career Choices includes an entire section of exercises allowing adolescents to try on different identities and get to know and appreciate who they are.

  4. Most young people no longer consider the statement because I say so an adequate reason for staying in school or applying themselves to their studies. Career Choices convincingly illustrates how math, reading, writing, technology -- even great literature -- will increase their prospects for success and enhance their life satisfaction.
  5. The ability to project into the future and understand the consequences of today's actions is critical to dropout prevention. Because it constantly asks students to think about their future and the steps they need to take to realize their vision, Career Choices offers ongoing practice of this important skill.

    The same ability is also effective in preventing teen pregnancy. Young women who have specific plans for their future are far less likely to become teen parents, according to researcher Michael Resnick, Ph.D., author of one of the most respected studies on teen pregnancy prevention.

  6. It's never a good idea to assume "everyone knows." Making good decisions or behaving appropriately on the job may be a matter of common sense for most adults but, looking back, it wasn't always so. Few high school texts advise teens that, for example, they may have to overcome certain emotional obstacles in order to reach their career goals if no one in the family has had such high ambitions. But Career Choices does. In chapters 8 through 10 it anticipates dozens of scenarios any teen may encounter with trepidation, offering practical advice on how to proceed.
After considering all these factors, the importance of infusing comprehensive career and life planning strategies into the core curriculum is amply evident. By the time they complete the eighth, ninth or tenth grade -- BEFORE it is too late to take advanced math and science classes in high school, or to choose a satisfying future career -- ALL STUDENTS should have at least 45 hours of a classroom guidance curriculum. (180 hours of guidance would be ideal.) During this time, they should learn a process for dealing with the changes and choices they will face during their lifetime. They should leave such a program with a clearer vision of who they are and what they want from life. And they should feel more confident of their ability to go after their dreams and achieve their goals.

Important, Innovative, and Unique Features

Career Choices offers teachers and students:
  • A unique opportunity to introduce comprehensive career guidance in an English/language arts class
  • An engaging text that subtly encourages self-esteem and supports diversity
  • Opportunities for team teaching among English, business, math, career/technical education, family/consumer science, and/or technology instructors.
  • Links to technology, including an online correction tool for Lifestyle Math, www.lifestylemath.com
  • A web site offering updated information on resources and training opportunities, as well as connections with other teachers using the curriculum, and more
  • The Career Choices Forum, a users' group for any instructor with an e-mail address
  • Free ongoing assistance and advice on curriculum and technology from trained and experienced full-time staff
  • A portfolio students can take with them, refer to, and tinker with throughout their high school career
  • An online component, www.careerchoices.com, designed to enhance students' learning as they use the Internet to gather relevant data as they plot and plan their future
  • A free electronic newsletter discussing relevant topics in education, sharing resources and creative ideas for presenting the curriculum, etc
  • Ongoing training opportunities

Site Information, Demographics, and Quotes

The Career Choices curriculum, used in over 4,300 schools nationwide, has been remarkably successful in a variety of settings and with widely disparate populations at motivating students to stay in school and to take their education seriously.
-- Three years after it became a required course for all freshmen at Coachella Valley High School in California (nearly 100% minority) the dropout rate fell from 12.7% to 3.8%.
-- Career Choices is an integral part of the curriculum at Sussex High School, honored as one of ten All-American High Schools at a White House ceremony in 1996.
-- In 1994, the state of Washington presented its Restructuring Award to Tumwater High School for its Career Choices program.
-- The curriculum holds a "Best Practices" citation from the U.S. Department of Labor.
-- Career Choices was cited by the U.S. Department of Education as a "Promising Intervention" curriculum.
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"I commend these materials for use in high schools and/or community colleges . . . I particularly like that the curriculum is grounded in a specific academic discipline and that it is competency-based."
-- Dale Parnell
Author, The Neglected Majority/Father of Tech Prep
"An effective, integrated approach to career and life planning, Career Choices and Possibilities give schools a head start on addressing the recommended SCANS competencies and foundation skills."
-- Gloria J. Conn
Member of the SCANS Commission
"The results of this project were extraordinary. Participants were exposed to the writings of poets, visionaries, and other great authors. They learned the practical applications of math. For the first time, these students began to understand the correlation between knowledge, employment, and education."
-- Joe Werner, JTPA Administrator
Monterey County, CA
"Before this class I thought everything would just fall into place. Now I realize that I have to make my future happen."
-- Student of Dee Fay, 9th grade Career Exploration teacher
San Gabriel High School
San Gabriel, CA

Summary

All children require and deserve an education that prepares them to perform their fiscal and civic responsibilities, and to live satisfying and meaningful lives. Relatively new programs like Tech Prep and School-to-Work take an important first step toward meeting this goal by recognizing the needs of that majority of students who will not go on to four years or more of college. But, most often, they do not precede entrance into these programs with the kind of comprehensive guidance so necessary when asking adolescents to make decisions that could alter the course of their lives. When young people receive adequate guidance before choosing a career path, they are much more likely to stick with their program, to stay in school, and to be prepared to find and accept satisfying work that pays a living wage.

At most schools it is unfeasible for every student to get the kind of comprehensive guidance required through one-on-one visits with a certified guidance counselor. There simply isn't enough time. Career Choices makes it possible for every participant to receive 45 to 180 hours of guidance in the classroom. While building their reading, writing, and math skills, they also discover the relevance of education to their future life satisfaction.

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