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Matt Bay, a science teacher at Ralston High School, sits down with eighth grader Damari Damerom-Guyton and his dad Dana Guyton Thursday at Ralston Middle School during parent/teacher conferences to help plan Damerom-Guyton’s high school career.

With a bigger school filled with new faces and a variety of class choices, high school can be daunting to incoming freshmen.

But with Ralston High School’s Individualized Learning Plans, ILP, it’s not so intimidating.

Three years ago, RHS teachers and administration began visiting Ralston Middle School during parent/teacher conferences to not only get students excited about high school but also map out their next four years.

ILPs allow students, along with their guardians, to sit down with an RHS teacher and set goals for their high school career based on personal goals and interests.

RHS principal Jesse Tvrdy said ILPs have been successful in empowering students and their families.

“I think it’s very important that our students have a plan and they know what to expect,” she said. “We talk about goal setting with kids, but sometimes seeing way into the future is hard.”

“Part of this is empowering families about why a four-year plan is important and why graduation requirements alone are not the driving factor, ultimately, for student success.”

Before starting high school, students are informed about classes at RHS and are introduced to the district’s career and technical education program called Blueprint.

Through career interest surveys, students select a career path they would like to focus on, are placed in career-focused homerooms, and career-focused courses are mapped out for them on the ILP. Students remain in their homeroom throughout high school unless they change their career path.

The career fields of study through the Blueprint program include business, marketing and management; agriculture, food and natural resources; communication and information systems; skilled and technical sciences; health sciences; and human sciences and education.

Josh Wilken, district career education coordinator, said grouping students based on field of study is aimed to link those with similar interests and create a stronger bond between students and staff.

“That was one of the focuses of this change was getting to build those relationships and getting to know students over time as their interests may change if they may become even more focused on a specific career outcome,” Wilken said.

Throughout high school, teachers and counselors continuously meet with students to see if they are adhering to their plan as well as discuss changes if necessary.

Though students are placed in career-focused program of study, Tvrdy said they have the option to change.

“Don’t be scared if things change, we are here to support you and we are flexible,” she said.

Experiencing a variety of classes is important in figuring out life, Wilken said. The district’s Blueprint program, he said, will help students get a taste of different career paths now rather than wasting money on college courses down the road.

“There’s just as much power in finding out what you don’t want to do as there is finding out what you do want to do,” he said.

With ILPs, students are guided toward the Blueprint Academies offered at RHS as well as programs in partnership with Metro Community College where students get hands-on learning experience.

Whe¬¬n incoming freshmen talk about the opportunities, Wilken said he is happy to see how eager they are to start their journey.

“It’s so exciting to see students get excited about coming to Ralston High School,” he said.

By mapping out their high school education, RHS staff hopes to give students a better handle on their future.

“It allows students to see a final piece past graduation and how it related to them personally,” Tvrdy said. “We want to make sure those students meet their dreams and their goals and can be as successful as possible.”

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