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Guest Blog Post: Kristi Otten

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West Clermont High School Associate Principal, Kristi Otten

by Kristi Otten, WCHS Associate Principal
West Clermont Schools

When you’re surrounded by people who share a passionate commitment around a common purpose, anything is possible.
—Howard Schultz

A good friend of mine recently lost her father at the age of 89. As the family shared stories and memories of their time with him, it was clear that he lived an amazing life. Even so, his life was remarkably ordinary for his generation – every one of us knows someone like him. He went to school and got a job with a company where he worked for forty years before retiring. In retirement, he found ways to stay active by volunteering his time with organizations he cared deeply about, and also a lot of time with grandchildren. What made his life remarkable is that it was a life lived with purpose; a reason to get out of bed each morning and contribute his talents.

One generation later, my friends and I already see a difference in the world we navigate. Very few of us will retire from the company we started our career with, and many will not even retire in the same career we started in. We plan to work longer than our parents did, and can’t necessarily depend on a company pension to supply our retirement income. When we were in school, we were prepared for the life of our parents, and the transition to this new reality has been tough for many of the people I know. We are determined to better prepare our children for the evolving world that they will graduate into; and we see that young people want their purpose and their career to be aligned more than any generation that came before them.

A generation ago, our parents were primarily concerned with making sure their children were academically competent. This will always be the core business in our schools. It has become obvious that this is not enough to be fully prepared for an independent life as an adult. Students today also need a credential – a college degree, an industry certification, or a specialized set of skills – that will allow them to adapt and grow throughout their careers. Where our parents often held one job through retirement, our children will likely hold at least 10 different jobs and change jobs every 4-5 years. This requires them to be adaptable and have marketable skills beyond academic competence. Our children are also more likely to work for themselves or be considered “gig” employees. This means they need financial literacy skills to understand how to save for retirement and plan ahead when business is good for the eventual downturns when business is slow. Working in this environment is more reliant on our connections with others than ever before, so our children also have to prepare to navigate social networks – both virtual and face to face – in order to find career opportunities throughout their lifetime.

Given this changing set of expectations, we are committed to helping our students prepare to pursue a pathway and a purpose, not just a job. The West Clermont Portrait of a Graduate defines this broader set of attributes that our students will need after they graduate high school, serving as the North Star for everything we do from preschool through 12th grade. At West Clermont High School, we are making specific changes to better reflect what our community values and what we believe will be important for our students well beyond their time with us. We have added more instruction in Financial Literacy for every student. This will not only include foundational instruction in personal finance but will also include career-readiness skills beyond academic competency through the Ohio Means Jobs – Readiness Seal. We also want our students to explore a pathway beyond high school. Students will investigate enrollment, employment, and/or enlistment options throughout high school to create a plan to pursue one of these pathways. We are also expanding our connections with our community to add more options for internships, part-time employment, and service opportunities while in high school to help our students further explore post-graduation pathways. Every student that walks across the stage after earning their diploma should be able to view graduation as the beginning of their journey in a pathway they have planned for, not the end of their learning.

The educators in West Clermont are united around a common purpose to prepare students for their life beyond high school. My hope is that all of our students will be able to live a life of purpose – whether it is remarkable or remarkably ordinary – knowing that through a passionate commitment, anything is possible.

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