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MVHS Career Center: Out with the old, in with the new

Ms.+Statham+is+very+excited+about++the+new+career+center+and+hopes+everyone+stops+by+to+visit
Ms. Statham is very excited about  the new career center and hopes everyone stops by to visit

Ms. Statham is very excited about the new career center and hopes everyone stops by to visit

Tatiana Calhoun Martinez

Tatiana Calhoun Martinez

Ms. Statham is very excited about the new career center and hopes everyone stops by to visit

Tatiana Calhoun Martinez, Staff Writer

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As Mount Vernon continues to grow its International Baccalaureate program and advance the literacy initiative, it is also looking to the future, more specifically, to the future of its graduates, getting rid of the old and ushering in the new.

On Wednesday, April 11th, 2018, Mount Vernon High School released its new and improved Career Center, donning shiny new equipment and contemporary furniture, the Career Center is almost unrecognizable from its former self.

MVHS held a ribbon-cutting ceremony dedicated to the new Career Center, where many people invested in the education of Fairfax County students made appearances, to include Mount Vernon Principal, Dr. Anthony Terrell, representatives from the Bank of America Charitable Foundation, as well as staff from the Workforce Development Program at Northern Virginia Community College.

Mount Vernon High School received a grant from Bank of America to revive the center, which is always open to help students make decisions and plan their futures. The Bank of America Charitable Foundation actually funds workforce education programs through numerous colleges, and Northern Virginia Community College is one of the colleges that they fund.The grant was given to Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA) who then partnered with MVHS and decided to use the funds for the Career Center.

Students, teachers, and staff are all are enthusiastic about the changes to the Career Center and eager to see the difference it will make for the school community.

Courtesy of Lifetouch
A special guest from the event observing the way the new furniture is being used between students and counselors.

Jarren Jeffery, the Director of Student Services at MVHS said, “I am absolutely excited. This is such a historical opportunity for our students. We have three entities that can make sure Mount Vernon students succeed. We have our school board members, we have our local business, Bank of America, and also local higher education: Northern Virginia Community College. The three of them have partnered so that we get the resources and the opportunities needed, which is amazing. We are actually the only school that has been a recipient of this, but the partnership is what is really important, because we want our students to have a smooth transition if they want to go to NOVA and students know that there are local colleges that are willing to invest resources into them transitioning.”

…we want our students to have a smooth transition if they want to go to NOVA and students know that there are local colleges that are willing to invest resources into them transitioning.”

— Jaren Jeffrey, Director of Student Services

Mount Vernon High School’s Career Center helps students make decisions on what they want to do in the future through connecting them with counselors, teachers, and staff members. The Career Center provides a variety of information, as well as tools to help students discover all of the possible career and college options that exist. The center also provides information and help with financial aid, available scholarships, SAT and ACT prep, opportunities within the military, jobs, opportunities for volunteering, and apprenticeships. Each fall the Career Center hosts roughly 50 college admission representatives who come to speak with  juniors and seniors.

Courtesy of Lifetouch
Counselors of Mount Vernon High School and other members of the Fairfax Count School board connecting over the new career center.

The rejuvenation of the center also carries with it one bittersweet note, as last year, Mount Vernon lost their Career Center Specialist, Audrey Jones, to cancer. Ms.Jones would take it upon herself to motivate students who did not know what they wanted to do with their life. She would constantly remind them that they had the ability to accomplish whatever they wished to if they set their mind to it, and all students remember her smiling face and booming voice on the morning news encouraging them to take advantage of the opportunities the Career Center had to offer. It is difficult to walk through the doors of the center without remembering Ms. Jones and wishing she were there to see the progress and greet students with her welcoming and kind heart. (To read more about Ms. Jones legacy, go to http://vernonvine.org/1549/archives/the-legacy-of-audrey-jones/ for the archived article from 2017)  .

Although Jones left pretty difficult shoes to fill, Mount Vernon found Susie Statham, the new Career Center Specialist, who is just as motivated and is just as invested in her students’ success. Ms.Statham is also bilingual and helps open up many opportunities for students who are native Spanish speakers and are either just learning English or speak English as a second language. Statham is also seen on the news  almost everyday to announce scholarships, apprenticeships, and volunteer opportunities, and to simply encourage students to visit the center with any questions they may have or to gather information on schools or other programs they may be interested in.

Ms.Statham is very excited about the new career center, and when asked about the grant, said “I was informed about the grant in the beginning of the school year and we’ve been working with the NOVA workforce and representatives of the Bank of America and our school counseling department to gather ideas and make purchases little by little.”

When asked about how she believes the career center will grow and what it could become, she said “Right now, students in general live on a mobile era. Any information they need has to be found on the spot. Students don’t have time to check out books and try to figure out where to find the information; we live times where electronics and technology are the resources we use to find answers to our questions. My generation used books to find scholarships and any information we needed. Students have the great advantage of being able to use technology to find answers to almost anything. In terms of the Career Center, students will now have the ability to access resources in a faster fashion because of our new equipment. They also have a new Google Site available only to MVHS students that contain the links to resources specific to college admissions, scholarships, apprenticeships, and military information. We will also be able to host video conferences with different businesses, universities, government officials, and many others; we already have agreements with universities in the United Kingdom, Spain, and one in Costa Rica. These schools are willing to open their doors through video and answer any questions our students may have about their institutions.”

Attending the reopening was Senior, Brady Alexander, who is also seen hosting the morning announcements most days. Brady remembers that “There have been three different Career Centers since I’ve been here; the first focused on work environment, then it transitioned to focusing on scholarships, and now it focuses on exploring potential career and college options.”

Tatiana Calhoun Martinez
Students Brady Alexander, Jose Alvarado, and Ian Powell at the ribbon cutting of the new career center.

Thanks to the grant, Mount Vernon High School has added new furniture, computers, and other materials to make it easier for students to explore career and college options. Students can now sit comfortably and talk to counselors or other staff members about possible career or college options and other opportunities. The Career Center has also set up a new video chat system that allows them to speak to schools overseas, having already made three of those calls since the reopening. Students will now be able to talk to professors overseas and tour campuses through video chat.

Courtesy of Lifetouch
Former worker from NOVA observes the students at Mount Vernon using the new technology in the career center

Students are already noticing the many benefits of the new and improved center. Senior, Jose Alvarado, said, “This new career center is easier to work in;  the environment is more open so you can have more workstations, which allows more flow and it’s more of a self discovery environment.”

Dr.Terrell also sees a bright future for the new Career Center. When asked about what he sees the career center becoming, he said “I see maximum usage. I want to walk in here all times of the day, before school, after school, and see kids in here working.I want to see them talking to counselors about colleges or careers. They can use the computers to find out what’s required to do certain careers, what colleges are looking for, like activities. I wouldn’t mind just even seeing kids hangout here; this is like a community space, open all the time for kids.”

Courtesy of Lifetouch
Dr. Terrell and journalism students, Tatiana Calhoun Martinez and Kat Lopez.

It appears that Dr. Terrell has gotten his wish, as since the ribbon cutting, one can always see students coming in and out, chatting with counselors, and carrying valuable new information to take home and share with families. Bank of America, NOVA, and MVHS can be proud of the new center and the new opportunities now being offered to students.

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MVHS Career Center: Out with the old, in with the new