The Adair County School Board unanimously approved a measure last Thursday to begin a new, career-driven program at ACHS. CHIEF Nation, an acronym for Completing High School in Early Format, will allow eligible seniors the opportunity to enter the workforce in their second semester while technically remaining enrolled in school.
“We’re excited to help kids begin their futures,” says ACHS guidance counselor Ann Young. “We’re confident that we will be sending our students out well-prepared to start the next phase in their life.”
ACHS career readiness counselor Robin Loy worked with Young to establish the program’s objectives and implementation, and says CHIEF Nation is simply another way for the high school to present its students with options and opportunities for success.
“The goal is to get kids who have completed all of their required high school coursework into meaningful work experiences,” Loy says. “It’s an early career model similar to our early college model [which allows students to take college courses while still enrolled in high school]. This is for the kids that are ready to go to work, that are ready for that next transition.”
Administrators at ACHS will take applications to determine who gets into the program, which requires completion of high school credits, meeting career readiness benchmarks, and – depending on the career choice – some type of work certification. While students in CHIEF Nation will not attend school, they will remain eligible for all extracurricular activities, including prom and participation in sports. Loy will meet with each student in the program on a monthly basis to monitor progress and offer resources and support in the school-to-work transition. Loy expects 20-30 students to participate next year, with that number possibly growing in subsequent school years.
“Most of the students who get into the program will have earned industry certification,” Loy explains. “They’ll be ready to go out and apply the skills that they learned here at ACHS, but they’ll still get to graduate in May or June with their classmates.”
CHIEF Nation is a byproduct of the change in accountability models to which the district must adhere. The focus the past few years has been on college and career readiness for all students, but the new accountability model concerns itself more with transition to one pursuit or the other. “Instead of making kids college and career ready, now it’s about making them ready for either the academic transition or the work transition,” Loy says. “We feel like this program is a good way to help the students making that transition into a career.”
District Board Chairwoman Lisa Burton says she was happy to support and vote in favor of instituting the program. “It just gives students that aren’t going into college the chance to get an earlier start in their careers, whether it’s the military, farming, welding, healthcare, or something else,” Burton says. “If they can get that head start on their careers, I think it will be a good thing for them, and hopefully a good thing for us.”