In a world where job applicants come from around the globe and college costs and admission requirements continue to climb, Pickerington Local School District officials want families of their middle school and junior high schools students to begin thinking about life after graduation.

With that in mind, the district has slated another College and Career Family Night for Wednesday, Jan. 24, at Ridgeview STEM Junior High School, 130 Hill Road South.

The event marks the third consecutive year the district is hosting an evening for middle school and junior high students and their parents to begin thinking about how to get into and pay for college, as well as various career options that could be available to them after high school.

There is no charge to attend the event, which will begin with complementary pizza and a “showcase” featuring Eastland-Fairfield Career Center and Pickerington STEM programs at 5 p.m., followed from 6 to 8 p.m. by presentations from college and career representatives on topics ranging from college-admission standards, financial planning and developing a six-year graduation plan.

It also will include an address by Kim Ebbrecht, senior director of “I Know I Can,” with her presentation, “College Planning Starts NOW!”

Organizers said Ebbrecht’s presentation is designed to help families learn best practices for creating a college-going culture at home.

“We know how important it is for students to start thinking about their plans beyond school at an earlier age,” said Eileen McGarvey, school counselor at Ridgeview STEM.

“Starting the conversation in the intermediate grades allows our students to look at all options and develop a six-year plan so that they are not shut out of opportunities because of lack of knowledge.

“We ask students to be thinking of their career goals. We understand these career goals may change multiple times, but we feel it is very important to work toward a goal.”

McGarvey said Ridgeview and co-sponsor Lakeview Junior High have continued to offer the College and Career Night for intermediate grades primarily because school officials believe it better prepares students and families for college and careers after high school.

Earlier programs also have yielded high demand, and she said organizers expect more than 500 people to attend this year.

“We have representatives from colleges and universities informing students and families of entrance requirements and what to consider in making the decision of which college to attend,” McGarvey said.

“Representatives from (the ACT program) will inform our families about the ACT college entrance exam, and financial-aid experts will discuss the ways to pay for college.

“We will also have representatives from the military, career tech, and ACTOHIO will connect with students about work in the Affiliated Construction Trades.”

As for choosing a post-graduation path, McGarvey said school officials aren’t trying to pressure middle school and junior high students into settling on a lifelong career.

Rather, she said, events like College and Career Family Night is designed to make students and families mindful of their options and how best to pursue them.

“Often, students and families make decisions about their college path because they are limited financially,” she said.

“We will offer experts and resources on financial aid and planning in order to allow students to keep all of their options open.

“Attendees will be able to customize what sessions they will attend. They will each have time to choose three sessions after the keynote.

“During the dinner hour we will have the teachers and students from the STEM pathways and the Career Center available to answer questions.”

To register or for more information about College and Career Family Night visit pickerington.k12.oh.us.

“The sessions at College and Career Family Night are designed to help build the foundation for families to start seriously thinking about their children's college and careers,” said Kris Owen, school counselor at Ridgeview STEM.

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