In Utica Community Schools, we build on our students’ sense of discovery by creating a wide array of academic opportunities that begin to provide clarity to a question they started asking in elementary school: “What do I want to be when I grow up?”
We believe it is never too early for families to begin planning their children’s unique academic pathway toward becoming educated, capable adults.
Establishing early partnerships between home and school can only enhance a child’s learning. As we approach parent-teacher conferences, I want to encourage UCS parents to continue taking an active interest in their son or daughter’s classroom choices and experiences at every level.
My message today is focused on the more than 5,600 students in grades 7, 8 and 9 in UCS schools who are at a pivotal point along their academic path. This is truly a time of transition and self-discovery for students who start the journey as children leaving the elementary world and later emerge as independent young thinkers beginning to see their place in the college and career world.
We can gauge how well we as educators, parents and community members are preparing them for their next level by feedback from the largest universities and the smallest workplaces. It is feedback that tells us they see in UCS graduates the very basis of what they seek in their recruitment process – students who have challenged themselves, are proficient problem solvers and most importantly, have already completed a wide range of rigorous experiences in their K-12 education.
The fact that UCS students have these skills validates our ongoing commitment that a diploma from Utica Community Schools will continue to open doors for graduates. From their first day in kindergarten, UCS students receive rigorous academic experiences; pursue choices in the arts, athletics or community service and are provided multiple options to explore college and career interests.
For example, junior high is where, in addition to rigorous required classes, our students first experience the district’s comprehensive Career and Technical Education (CTE) curriculum. Here they can begin to explore diverse career pathways that show them the connection between academics and future professions – “connecting the mind and the hands,” as our CTE educators say.
No matter a student’s ultimate career goal, these experiences are wholly beneficial. One such example is our secondary mechatronics robotics program where, in addition to technology and engineering content, students also gain knowledge of physics concepts embedded in the course curriculum.
Beginning in eighth grade, UCS students develop an individual four-year career plan with the goal to explore potential work interests well before starting postsecondary education. This year, our focus has expanded to tie this planning more directly to a student’s course selection throughout high school.
The Academic Blitz offers information about the district’s specialized high school options, Advanced Placement, early college and dual enrollment, CTE choices and much more in a single evening designed to help form a student’s academic ‘game plan‘ for success.
Secondary students and families are also invited to learn more about college and career options and academic preparation at two other yearly UCS events: our Career Expo on March 19 from 7-9 p.m. at Eisenhower High School and our College Fair scheduled in April at Henry Ford II High School.
Students who are beginning their junior high journey are poised to make educational choices that have the potential to impact their entire lives. Our job as educators and as parents is to make sure they use these years wisely and productively so when the time comes, their learning experiences will be the keys that unlock a successful future.