Hastings schools debut initiative to set students up for success

Barry County

HASTINGS, Mich. (WOOD) — What’s your plan? That’s the question students throughout the Hastings Area School System — kindergarten through 12th grade — will be asked starting this year.

“We want to make sure they are empowered with goal setting and ultimately they need a plan to achieve those goals,” Superintendent Matt Goebel said.

The idea came from the College Access Network in Barry County, a group of employers, educators and other professionals. Teachers will implement it in different ways depending on the age of the student. For example, it could be as simple as setting a goal to learn how to write their name for small children. Later, in middle school, teachers will start planting the seed for career development. By high school, the idea would be to talk about what students will do after graduation.

“Whether they would like to go into the military or to college or go right into the workforce, so we can support those goals and ultimately develop a plan, because we all need to make sure we’re impacting the world in which we live,” Goebel said.

Hastings High School sophomore Trey Casey said he has known what he wants to do with his life since he was a little kid.

“I’m the fourth generation of my family to be a livestock auctioneer,” Casey said. “My great-grandfather started the company in 1937 … and that’s always what I wanted to do, take over the family business.”

Even with a built-in aspiration, Casey still relied on a plan to hone his skills. He said the agriculture department in Hastings helped him a lot, offering classes to help him improve.

Casey’s friend, Charlie Nickels, also a 10th grader, plans to go into either engineering or agriculture school, a decision he made while in middle school. He expects the “What’s your plan?” initiative to help him on that path.

“It means a lot more people will be there with (me), pushing me to pursue that goal,” he said.

Emily Roe, entering her senior year, has a love of animal, and hopes to help them by going into veterinary medicine. Roe knows the impact making a plan from a young age can have because that’s what she did.

“I had plenty of time to do research and testing on whether I had the right attributes for the job I wanted to go into. I’ve had time to job shadow, experience different things and gear classes towards my end goal,” she explained.

She thinks early planning will make a huge difference for the elementary students in her district who will start thinking about their own plans this year.

Senior Allison Teed made her decision more recently to go into pastoral ministries. That happened earlier this summer after attending a religious camp.

“I was never very sure what I wanted to do, but starting that process earlier would have been helpful because it would have opened me up to more jobs and see what else is out there,” Teed said. “I would have purposefully gone to different clubs or been involved in different events at school.”

A big component of the initiative will be the financial backing it offers to each student. The Barry Community Foundation and Highpoint Community Bank are sponsoring the KickStart to Career program by seeding a savings account with $50 toward post-secondary education for every single kindergartner in Barry County, including the Hastings Community School system. That started five years ago, meaning students now entering the sixth grade have already accumulated money for college or certification training. The program also introduces the concept of savings and teaches families the importance of financial literacy.

“That’s ultimately the goal with those community partnerships in this initiative … in empowering these students with goal development and it’s going to make a very large impact on those students when they leave Hastings,” Goebel, the superintendent, said.

He knows from experience the value in having support for reaching those goals because his own plan changed more than once as a young adult. After graduating high school, he wanted to go into computer science, which he tried for a year.

“Ultimately, I had the opportunity to work with students with disabilities and I changed my major to become a special education teacher. But my plan has changed three or four times in my life,” Goebel said.

“We have to make sure we give students the critical thinking skills that go along with that to change along with a very dynamic culture in which a lot of our jobs, 10 years from now, may not exist,” he added.

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