Software helps students find direction

Figuring out what to do after high school can be challenging, so Ector County ISD has introduced a software called Naviance.

The name is a mixture of navigate and guidance, Director of Guidance and Counseling Chelsea Reyes said.

“It is a college and career readiness platform so it is supposed to allow students to research colleges (and) determine their strengths …,” Reyes said.

This can help students determine what career choices and/or college would be best for them.

“It even helps with your FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid), TASFA, your common application and it’s supposed to help really make sure that every student is applying to college — at least one — and working on a success planner, goal setting,” Reyes said.

She added that setting at least a five-year plan is the goal. That would include four years of high school and their objective for life post high school.

“… Some are planning to go into the military when they graduate and then some are planning to go to college when they graduate. Anybody that wants access to the program still can have access for up to six years post secondary,” Reyes said. “Part of that benefit is that when they create a resume within the platform, every year you’re going to build on it so once you create that resume they’ll be able to go back and modify it instead of paying for a resume building program. I think that’s one nice thing that’s within the platform.”

She added that it’s in one place and it can be modified as needed.

Ideally, students start using Naviance in eighth grade.

“We have a career and goal setting piece in there to really help them decide what their goals are for high school, what pathway am I wanting to take because we have our pathways. We have so many options in the schools. There’s the CTE (career and technical education) piece, there’s dual credit, early admissions, so we really want to make sure they’re aware of everything that’s available to them,” Reyes said.

Guidance counselors talk to students every year to see if things have changed.

“Kids change; we know that. Their interests change and so we revisit this every year during educational planning time and we reiterate all the things that we offer and we let them know what kinds of things they need to do to get into the programs that they’re most interested in,” Reyes said.

She noted that it’s better to explore options when you’re young so they don’t waste time and money.

“We always reiterate don’t just look at the salary, even though salary is important. … You want to be happy about what you do. That is a big piece to it, enjoying what you do and wanting to go to work every day and doing your best at whatever you decide to do,” Reyes said.

“Obviously we need people in all industries. Focus on what’s best for you and how can you find what’s best for you instead of having to change because you’re unhappy,” she added.

Asked what makes eighth grade the best time to start planning for the future, Reyes said it’s the year before they start high school.

“So we really want them to think about it because … some of the pathways are four years long, so if they already know they want to do we want to make sure we get them set up that way … Some pathways may be primarily geared to junior and senior year, so if we’re going to set it up that way we need to create their four-year plan for high school, so we can say OK, here’s an idea of what we should do for eighth grade. Tell me what fine art do you want; what foreign languages do you want to take. You need two years of a foreign language,” Reyes said.

If those are complete, space can be freed up junior and senior year for a program the student wants. If they don’t plan ahead, it can make their schedule more difficult and make it harder to get those classes they want in.

Reyes said it wouldn’t be impossible because they have summer dual credit.

“We just try to show them all the options on … how we can make their schedule as flexible as possible to meet their needs and goals,” she said.

Executive Director of Guidance and Counseling Nancy Vanley said this is only the district’s second year using Naviance.

Last year, Naviance was used mainly for course requests, some activities and career clusters for eighth graders so they could research careers and see what they might be interested in, Vanley said.

She added that they are implementing more of the program this year and more effectively getting the word out as to what the program has to offer.

Once users get into the program and learn it, Vanley said they may find it’s easier than they think.

“The parents have a platform. They all receive an email with a link of how to sign on and all that. We’re going to roll that out again this year. … We plan on having Naviance trainings, as well. … There is a piece where they can go in and see their students’ four-year plans and what career they chose at this time, which is always changeable,” Vanley said.

There is a link for FAFSA and district scholarships can be posted as well so students can sign up for them.

“I think it’s going to be more beneficial as we get the college platform better communicated into the public because I think it’s a fabulous resource. We’ve never had anything like this in our district and it just has some great components. It brings all the college components into one place for you, so I just can’t say enough for what it can mean for the student and the parent,” she added.