Salt River Schools opens the doors to the Division's first College and Career Center

Salt River Schools opens the doors to the Division's first College and Career Center
Posted on 10/21/2016
SRHS junior high student Ava holds "college cookies" to celebrate the grand opening of the school's first College and Career Center.It might seem small to look at, but the room prepped with two computers sitting side-by-side at Salt River High School has a big purpose.

Left vacant after its former occupant retired, room 635 is now transformed into Salt River School’s first-ever College and Career Center, and its location and unobtrusive presence is purposeful, said Rebeca Ronstadt-Contreras, the Division’s Higher Education Administrator.

The new center celebrated its grand opening Oct. 21. “We’re really excited about the possibilities of the new College and Career Center,” Ronstadt-Contreras said. “We’ve never done anything like this before. It’s unique in that we have created a deeper partnership with the school to offer additional support that directly impacts students. They can come in and we can help them navigate the often tricky and confusing process of deciding what to do after graduating high school.”

Services include assistance with filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), figuring out college application deadlines and scholarship information, finding additional money for tuition and books, checking out vocational school options, and more.

“Figuring out life after high school is overwhelming,” Ronstadt-Contreras said. “The task of simply filling out forms with your information can be daunting and cumbersome. Our computers are situated side-by-side, because it helps to have someone sitting right next to you, who knows where to find the information you need and answer your questions in real-time.”

Getting the new center up and running was a collaboration between the Higher Education department and SRHS counselors and staff, said Salt River High School Principal Jon Gentile.

“The constant presence of this room on campus is a daily reminder of the attainable high expectations we have for our students,” Gentile said. “It’ll provide not only a more effective and direct means for students to get college and career planning advice and skills, but also provide that personal touch and comforting familiarity that’s often missing from the sometimes intimidating task of filling out forms that so heavily affect a student’s future.”

The new center helps answer the question the Higher Education staff is constantly asking themselves: How to get information to students, especially those who don’t regularly check their email or read monthly newsletters or attend monthly events, Ronstadt-Contreras said.

“Opening the College and Career Center smack-dab in the middle of the high school was what we felt would be a small step to implementing an instrumental shift in student thinking.”

Nationwide, Native American students are underrepresented in post-secondary institutions and programs.

The overarching goal for the Higher Education department and its new College and Career Center is to get more Salt River students interested in furthering their education and opening more career options after high school. Achieving that goal is more reachable now that the Higher Education department is visible and accessible within the high school.

“We hope to really encourage students to immerse themselves in college and career planning,” said Ronstadt-Contreras, adding that because the school also serves middle school students in grades seventh and eighth, in addition to high school grades nine to 12. “We’re going to be able to reach younger students that usually aren’t even thinking about college yet and help normalize college and career planning.”

Three SRHS students have already been accepted into a four-year university; one student has been accepted into a technical college.

Located in the same area as the guidance counseling offices, the College and Career Center will be staffed by Higher Education personnel every Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., or by appointment via a student sign-up sheet.

“If we can get into the mindset that everyone can do something beyond high school, whether that’s attending a community or technical college, a state university or receiving a career-oriented certificate, that would be a huge step to ensuring the future and success of all Salt River Schools students,” Ronstadt-Contreras said.

For more information about Higher Education and other Salt River Schools activities, visit www.SaltRiverSchools.org.

Media Contact:
Taté Walker
Communications and Public Relations Director
Salt River Schools
Office: (480) 362-2570
Cell: (480) 692-8159
Tate.Walker@srpmic-ed.org
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