What are your plans after you graduate high school? Are you ready for the future?” High school upperclassmen face these questions every year. The idea of planning for a future full of unknowns can be daunting and anxiety-inducing for many teens and young adults. At Methodist Children’s Home, staff and community partners equip youth with the skills and tools they need so they can prepare for their next steps with confidence.
One such opportunity for MCH students came in the form of an event called “Reality Check.” Students and day students at the University of Texas–University Charter School (UT-UCS) on the MCH Waco campus learned how to properly budget their monthly income based on the career they selected. Expenses such as doctors’ visits or car accidents were also thrown into the mix.
“I want to become a chef, so it was good to learn how MCH can help me in my career after I graduate high school,” said Chanel*, a freshman living on the MCH Waco campus. “There are a lot of things that can affect my budget that I didn’t think about. I really appreciate the staff and others who put on this event.”
MCH staff from the Accounting and Human Resources departments, Transition Services (TS) and Independent Living (ILP), as well as partners from McLennan Community College (MCC), Equipment Depot, Douglass Nissan, and H-E-B guided students through the event.
Tim Price, director of Outdoor Education and Recreation, was a lead staff member of the Reality Check event. Price hopes the fair-like event will become an annual opportunity for students to learn what is in store for them after graduation.
“Our students are going to remember what they learned here for years to come,” Price said. “They were really blown away. It was also a chance for them to realize even after they graduate – whatever path they choose – MCH will still be able to help them in the future.”
After graduation, students can enroll in the TS and ILP programs, where housing, food and other necessities are offered, including scholarship funds for college or vocational school. During the spring semester, MCH and school staff organized a tour of Texas State Technical College (TSTC) in Waco. The group explored the workspaces in Auto Collision and Management Technology, Welding Technology and the Aviation programs.
Nathan, a May 2022 MCH graduate, was among the group thrilled to explore inside helicopters and jets at TSTC.
“I really want to pursue the culinary program at TSTC,” Nathan said. “But, after seeing what the aviation program has to offer, I think I want to pursue both fields. Why not? The sky is the limit.”
“Experiences like this expose our high school students to what else is out there,” said Kenneth Alexander, TS case manager. “Opportunities like this pave the way for our students’ future success. They are learning about various avenues where they can get hands-on experience for a career in the future. This trip also gave us another opportunity to interact with the youth before they graduate high school. We, as a staff, always let them know we are ready to help them if they need us.”
High school students at the charter school can also enroll in the OnRamps dual-credit program offered through the University of Texas in Austin which enables them to earn college credit while still in high school.
“It is important our students know they can get ahead in their college coursework before ever stepping foot on a college campus,” said Amy Grisham, director of school support. “The program allows them to grasp the level that collegiate coursework is at and it also helps them save money in the long run.”
MCH and school staff also work closely to provide events and spaces where students can ask important questions and investigate possible paths after high school. Another group of students and staff toured MCC during the spring semester. Devion, a May 2022 graduate, was inspired to learn about the college’s tutoring resources.
“It’s encouraging for me to know there is help for me there if I begin to feel like I’m struggling,” he said. “I think college tours are important because they help you figure out what you’re interested in. I am finding out what my strengths and weaknesses are through experiences like this. So when it actually comes time for me to go to college, I’ll be ready.”
On campus, MCH and charter school staff arranged a College Week where guests spoke with students about life after high school. Jennifer Amador, an MCH accounting associate and MCH alumna, spoke with a group of juniors and seniors about her own experience. Amador shared she took a break from college for a while and, with help from Transition Services, later enrolled at Tarleton State University through MCC’s University Center. She is set to graduate with her bachelor’s degree in accounting in 2023.
“It was encouraging to know that even after I took a break from school, MCH still had my back years after I graduated,” Amador said. “It really is a full circle situation for me because not too long ago, I was in the same spot as these students and now I work for MCH. I know how they’re feeling and what they’re thinking. It’s important for them to know they are not alone in this journey.”
“I am still friends with a lot of you guys and that is why I’m going to be real with you,” Zaniya, an MCH alumna, told the same group of students. Zaniya studies at MCC and is in the MCH Independent Living program.
“Having more independence is nice, but then the reality of being an adult sets in,” she continued. “Balancing a schedule with school, work and a personal life can be overwhelming. I am grateful I have the people in ILP to turn to. It is important for me to share my experiences with my friends who are still in high school so they can better prepare for what is coming next.”