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Ideas Sparking Action: How Young Educators Can Play a Leadership Role in College-School Partnerships

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Last week, I focused on one of my student's outstanding accomplishments within her school, and this week I want to address how young educators can do more for their students by utilizing their university ties. All colleges and schools of education have one main tenet in common: to produce the most scholarly and professional teachers to directly benefit schools in the community. This past semester, one of our students demonstrated how partnerships with community schools can be strengthened through meaningful student programming.

Della, a Senior Adolescent Education Major with an English Concentration, was student teaching at a nearby high school, and spent many sessions in my office evaluating her experience (after talking about her Secretarial Duties as part of our Kappa Eta Chapter of the International Education Honor Society Kappa Delta Pi, of course). Her main sentiment was that she wanted to take on more and provide her students with meaningful life skills. Typically, this is not what I hear from first time student teachers. Initially, student teaching can be a little overwhelming since all of your pedagogy and class work is now being put to the test by real students! However, instead of shying away from student teaching responsibilities, she took it upon herself to become more actively engaged within the school's community to make a difference in her students' lives. Upon working with them further, she realized that these students might benefit from more college/career readiness training for those college applications that were lurking around the corner. Shortly after this realization, Della befriended the guidance counselor, a proud St. John's alumna herself, and an idea was born.

Since Della had been actively involved in our Honor Society and various organizations at St. John's, she saw an opportunity for her University and her current high school to work together to coordinate an event on campus that would enhance her students' college and career readiness. After Della shared the idea with me, I immediately started thinking about ways to bring such an event to life. What ensued was a three pronged collaboration between our University, Della's High School, and a nonprofit organization, Junior Achievement of NYC, whose sole aim was to help inner city students with financial literacy and college/career readiness. Upon previous discussions with Junior Achievement, they had presented our School of Education Leadership Team with a curriculum and ideas on how to bring a college/career readiness day to St. John's - thus, the details (picking a school and their students, finalizing volunteers, and picking a date) were all that needed to be sorted out. The end result was a daylong conference for 50 high school students in which we provided a tour, orientation presentation, and facilitated discussions with faculty, admissions, and financial aid. With the help of Junior Achievement, we utilized their college/career readiness curriculum and trained 50 St. John's volunteers (students, faculty, and staff) from across the University to lead one-on-one advisement sessions with each student to develop their own unique college/career action plan.

To date, this was one of our most successful collaborative events on campus, which not only benefitted Della's students by providing each of them with an individualized college/career readiness plan, but also honed the one-on-one advising skills of our students, staff, and faculty. Due to Della's passion for her students, an idea was born that became a mutually beneficial event for both the high school and the University. Not only did it enhance our partnership, but this event will certainly be a featured highlight on Della's resume as it shows her dedication and passion, along with coordination and networking skills.

It proves just how important an idea can be, and that young educators can use their youth, enthusiasm, and networking skills to set something very special in motion, which can help their students today and their career down the road.

Olivia Schum
Director of Student Engagement
The School of Education
St. John's University
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