Preparing for the future
October 2, 2008
HEIDELBERG, Germany -- Children in military communities can be sure of one thing - change.
Whether that change is a transition from one installation to another, from middle school to high school and on to college, or from graduation to the workforce, it represents a challenge to most students and their families.
"Our children will, on average, transfer four or more times during their educational career," said Cherie Shivers, Parent to Parent team member.
The Real World Youth Transition Workshops in Heidelberg and a new program, Beyond the Bison Years in Mannheim - which kicks off today - prepare students and their parents to tackle transition by being prepared and knowledgeable.
The first step for most Real World attendees is building a portfolio.
"The portfolio helps the students keep track of all their important documents," said Barbara Abeje, with Heidelberg's Youth Educational Support Services.
The portfolio is designed to help students organize and track their grades, achievements, volunteer hours, essays, standardized test scores and letters of recommendation.
During the Real World introduction session held Sunday most students put together portfolios before heading off to one of three other sessions offered - volunteerism, college applications and financial aid, and database and Web site resources.
Each monthly workshop offers between five and 10 sessions so students in grades 7-12 can pick and choose topics that meet their needs and will help them in their transitions.
The workshops are not only geared toward college, but they also help with life skills and other opportunities after graduation.
Life skills sessions include topics like self defense, eating disorders, finances and value-based decision making. Sessions focused on employment skills include resume writing and interview skills.
One unique aspect of Heidelberg's Real World program, now in its seventh year, is the opportunity for returning students to volunteer their time to help peers prepare for their future. The volunteer time, more than 500 cumulative hours during the 2007-08 school year, can be used to demonstrate a well-rounded student to college administrators.
Mannheim's Beyond the Bison Years program is similar in many ways to Real World, said Jenny Levai-Baird, schools liaison officer for Mannheim.
"Last spring the Parent-to-Parent cadre, high school principal and student representatives from each grade met to discuss the idea," Levai-Baird said. Since then the program has become totally student led.
Today's kick-off event, held at the Mannheim High School, begins with student council concessions at 5 p.m., followed by an introductory session at 6 p.m. The next workshop is scheduled for Dec. 4.
The highlight of the evening will be a session with Lt. Col. Jeffery Fletcher, U.S. Army Garrison Mannheim commander. Fletcher will take part in a two-way discussion about his experience growing up as a military child and his path to college and beyond.
USAG Kaiserslautern Schools Liaison Officer Lynn Rice said the students there are taught transition skills in the classroom, and have not instituted programs similar to Heidelberg and Mannheim.
The Real World has been a proven success in the Heidelberg area, with students transitioning to college, many with scholarships.
"I received so many offers for scholarships that my parents will not have to pay anything for my college education," wrote David Minich-Castro, who graduated from Heidelberg High School in June and received five scholarship offers, in a testimonial letter to the program director.
"Real World is a tool to help you get money and get into college," Shivers said during Sunday's portfolio planning session.
More than that, Real World offers students a glimpse into life after school. "The lessons that I learned will benefit me for the rest of my life," Minich-Castro wrote.
(Editor's Note: Jason Austin writes for the USAG Baden-Wuerttemberg newspaper, the Herald Post.)