Picking Their Paths: College and Career Prep at Roosevelt
Given her focus on opening doors to future opportunities, it’s fitting that Katricia Manalo’s tenure at Roosevelt began as an intern. Two years ago, Manalo joined the Roosevelt team as a counseling intern, and quickly embraced the importance of exposing students to a range of pathways.
“I recognized early that middle school is so key,” she says. “If we can get kids on the right path heading into high school, they will be that much more prepared to be thinking about college and career. So one mark I really wanted to leave was building up themes around college and career readiness.”
Now, as Roosevelt’s college and career advisor, Manalo has the chance to dive deep. “Principal Hong has been so supportive and innovative in bringing this role to the school, and I was so thrilled to start doing this in a full-fledged way.”
One of just a few Oakland middle schools with a dedicated college and career advisor, Roosevelt is prioritizing pathways for students at an early age. “It’s really refreshing to be a part of,” says Manalo. “A lot of kids, when they’re in middle school, they just want to get to high school already. But if we can infuse the culture here with a college and career theme focus, it makes middle school more relevant and gets kids and their families thinking about their futures in exciting ways. I think we can build a lot of momentum at this stage.”
A big piece of this work is getting kids out in the world to see what’s possible. “For me, it’s about exposing them to any and all opportunities they may not have had otherwise,” Manalo says. To that end, she has been busy setting up college tours and visits to different business, including tech start-ups. Just as important, Manalo says, is framing these field trips in a way that akes for Roosevelt’s student population.
In that spirit, Roosevelt’s college visits “stray from the typical campus tours,” Manalo says. She reaches out to Educational Opportunity Programs (EOP) and other student organizations to make sure the college students hosting the tours will reflect Roosevelt students’ own experiences. “It’s so important for our kids to see themselves here on these campuses, and to hear from these students so they know someone like them can make it and be successful in college. When they hear someone share the story of being a first-generation college student, it debunks this idea that it’s too out of reach. Seeing other students in their shoes, they think, ‘I can do it, too.'”
The same goes for visits to local businesses, Manalo says. “When we’re visiting a business, for example, I want them to see that there are employees of color there, to see professionals who look like them and have similar backgrounds. The goal is to spark students’ interests and expose them to the opportunites that relate to what they have a true passion and interest in.”
“Case in point: 8th-grader Kevin (pictured at right). While most people think of internships as a high school activity, Kevin has embarked on an internship at Oakland’s Highland Hospital, where he’s getting a comprehensive crash course in, to hear him tell it, just about everything:
“At Highland, first off, you have to learn the rules. In a hospital, privacy and safety are very important, so you need to understand that first. Later on, I went to different departments, learning what doctors and nurses do. I get to help them out doing different things, like cleaning patients’ rooms, calling patients in for appointments, getting tools for the staff so they don’t have to waste their time getting supplies.”
Kevin appreciates Roosevelt for opening the door for him. “This internship has really opened up more career and college paths for me,” he reflects, “and helped me see how much my grades will mean in the future.” Having college and career prep in middle school, he says, makes a big difference. “Instead of just doing regular school work here and then going off to high school, we’re able to gain and use knowledge about career paths that will help us pick the right classes in high school and keep going on that college and career path.”
If you’re interested in supporting college visits that widen students’ horizons, check out our A to Z Fund, which makes mini-grants to teachers and school leaders for underfunded projects that can help kids thrive.