Time and Money

District pays for students to receive an associate degree or job certifications

Kyler Murphy, Reporter

The statistics are staggering: 96.6 percent of Blue Valley students graduate, 90 percent take the ACT (with the highest composite score of all districts in Kansas) and the district is ranked ahead of all school districts in Kansas by Niche Rankings. Students are expected to succeed and attend college.

“As someone who has had a rigorous schedule all four years of high school in an academically privileged area like Blue Valley, it is obvious that everyone around you expects you to attend college after you graduate high school,” senior Heer Mehta said. “You’re expected to have everything figured out.”

Considering the future impacts of student loan debt and a trend toward high paying industries employing students straight out of high school,   the Blue Valley School District created the Career and Technical Education program. The new program allows students to earn an associate degree at Johnson County Community College or certification in auto technology or construction management.

The 21 students involved in the program district-wide have the opportunity to receive those degrees and certifications at no cost. Through the program, students get started early in their careers and are able to find out if they genuinely would enjoy that career path.

“I’m learning about what I am interested in and planning on doing for the rest of my life rather than just taking traditional classes,” senior Zach Roman said.

While Roman is not sure what his dream job might be, he knows he wants to build cars.

“I think it is important, for students to experience career opportunities while still in high school, either to further their future job opportunities or to explore a career area and discover that they have a passion for it,” Director of Career-Ready Programs, Katie Bonnema said. “Or no, I don’t and now I know that and I don’t have to waste college tuition dollars pursuing something that I no longer am interested in.”

The students participating in the new program get started on their chosen career path or go through less schooling to get the degree they want.

“We have 10  [students] who are enrolled in an associate degree program. So they are full-time students at Johnson County Community College who maintain their Blue Valley student enrollment as well,” Bonnema said. “We have eight students in the auto technology program and three in the construction management.”

While the program was under development, principal Dr. Brett Potts called Roman to his office to discuss the program and potential enrollment.

“I see it as a step up,” Roman said. “It counts as college credit, so with enough credit hours behind me, I am hoping to graduate college in three years.”

Bonnema’s perception of the program mirrored Roman’s.

“This program is going to benefit students who desire the opportunity to be hands-on in their learning and to engage deeply in a career area before they invest their own personal dollars in education and certification opportunities in the future,” Bonnema said.

21 may be a small percentage of the more than 22,000 students in the Blue Valley School District but underclassmen will have the option to join this program next year by asking their counselor.