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Opening their horizons

Career navigators help students plan their futures

News Photo by Julie Goldberg Alpena Public Schools career navigator Elly Diamond, left, talks Tuesday with Alpena High School junior Alexis Ballard about what the student wants to pursue as a career and the opportunities that are available for her.

ALPENA — Three individuals are working in Alcona, Alpena, and Montmorency county school districts to help students figure out what they want to do after high school.

Thanks to a three-year, $1.9 million Marshall Plan for Talent grant from the state, Alcona Community Schools, Alpena Public Schools, Hillman Community Schools, and Atlanta Community Schools all have a career navigator in their buildings to help students plan for their next chapter after they graduate high school.

The career navigators and everything they do over the next three years will cost an estimated $700,720 of the $1.9 million grant, according to documents provided by APS.

Matt Poli, director of innovation and facilitator of the Marshall Plan initiatives at APS, said the primary purpose of the career navigators is to help connect students to what’s outside of the classroom.

The navigators are helping students complete job shadows, internships, apprenticeships, and other things, he said.

“They have their hands in everything, which makes it unique,” Poli said.

They’re required to complete two grade-appropriate career exposure activities for kindergartners through ninth-graders each year.

Elly Diamond, a navigator working with Alpena students, said her work is exciting because students ask for resources that can help them figure out their next step.

“It really opens their horizons,” Diamond said. “It helps them hone in on what college classes to take or what area to pursue for studies.”

Jenny Taratuta is a navigator in both Hillman and Atlanta schools. She said the navigators expose students to careers to help them figure out what pathway they want to take.

Students are touring different businesses in Northeast Michigan, which is possible because of the grant.

“We’re going on career tours around the area,” Taratuta said. “We’re helping students do some career exploration.”

Navigator Helen-Ann Cordes works with students at Alcona Community Schools and Sanborn Elementary School. She said it’s an amazing opportunity to work with students in different grades and expose them to what’s out there.

“It’s a unique opportunity for these students in rural Michigan to get a hands-on look at what’s out there,” Cordes said. “It’s an opportunity that students haven’t been getting.”

Cordes said students are being shown there are opportunities to attend college, but there are also opportunities to pursue trade school, the military, or enter the workforce.

At the elementary school level, Taratuta said students are getting their first exposure to colleges and what careers are out there that they can pursue when they’re older.

“If they see what they’re good at and what they love and see that there’s actually a job out there, it will help steer them a little bit,” Diamond, the Alpena career navigator, said.

“It’s gone fantastic,” Poli said. “It’s going to be really neat to fast-forward six months and see where we are, even toward the end of the school year, and see what we’ve done. It’s building a structure and that’s what you’re really going to see explode next year.”

Julie Goldberg can be reached at 989-358-5688 or jgoldberg@thealpenanews.com. Follow her on Twitter @jkgoldberg12.