GEAR UP Grant Pays Off for Newkirk Tigers

Newkirk High School, Newkirk, Oklahoma - Gold Medal

Career Choices—the most important class that a student can take!

This high opinion of the Career Choices curriculum is the enthusiastically stated viewpoint of teacher Mary Truitt from Newkirk, Oklahoma, home of the Newkirk High School Tigers, where she has been teaching Success 101 for the last two years. Mary, along with teachers Debbie Brazil and Grace Etter, teach a total of 90 freshmen and 90 sophomores each year. “The curriculum makes teachers real people to our students,” commented Ms. Truitt. “When we share our own stories, it really does make a difference,” she added.

Looking for better ways to motivate students and to improve the graduation rate, the school superintendent, principal, and these three teachers attended the Focus on Freshmen Conference in Los Angeles. “We saw something that was working and came back excited to try it with our students,” Ms. Pruitt added.

With the help of a GEAR UP grant, Newkirk began the program in earnest in 2014. Meeting weekly throughout the school year, all three Success 101 teachers go over their lesson plans, prepare for their upcoming guest speakers, discuss their challenges, and share highpoints they have had with students. “Building those relationships has been monumental,” according to Ms. Truitt.

Changes have occurred, with a new superintendent as well as a new principal, but administrative support remains high for the Success 101 program at Newkirk. “Maurisa Pruett, our current principal, backs us 100%,” says Ms. Truitt. There is no doubt that having strong support is a key component to the successful implementation of the Career Choices curriculum.

Solid team planning, strong administrative support, and enthusiastic teachers pays dividends in student success. “Our students can see how learning applies specifically to their futures,” explains Mary.

One student, Kaitlyn, dreamed of becoming a pediatric oncologist, a specialty requiring a minimum of 6 years of training after medical school. After closely examining the costs, length of training involved, and other factors, Kaitlyn developed a plan for becoming a pediatric oncology nurse. By learning to analyze her choices and adjust her path accordingly, Kaitlyn was able to identify and plan for a rewarding alternative rather than simply giving up on a dream.

Newkirk High School has even found ways to integrate the curriculum into the community.  One student’s parent, a volunteer with the local domestic abuse shelter program, is advocating for Career Choices as an effective tool for assisting individuals of all socio-economic and cultural backgrounds in discovering: (1) their aptitudes and interests; (2) a career path that is keyed to their interests and abilities (and learning specifically what is required to achieve that career goal); and (3) how to simply be better prepared, in general, for the financial realities of adulthood and how those realities may affect their choices for career pathways.