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Bemidji High School juniors Allen Hubert, right, and Isaac Klinke work on computers as they completed an assessment as part of the Ramp-up for Readiness program, a new initiative implemented this fall at BHS to help all students develop and prepare for their post-secondary plans. Monte Draper | Bemidji Pioneer

Ready to ‘Ramp up’ at BHS: Program looks to help high school students prepare for life after graduation

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BEMIDJI — A new program at Bemidji High School aims to prepare students for life after high school.

BHS joins 69 other Minnesota schools in Ramp-up to Readiness, a guidance program designed to get students thinking early about college and the steps they need to accomplish to achieve their goals.

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With different curriculum for seniors, juniors, sophomores and freshmen, the program has students considering prospective careers, the programs that would get them there and the schools that offer those programs.

Then, as a potential path is carved, Ramp-up to Readiness also takes students through the steps necessary to get accepted into a school and how to best pay for the education.

Similar in some respects to the Students First initiative, Ramp-up to Readiness has students planning high school coursework to plan for their futures.

"Basically, it helps prepare them and help them understand what’s yet to come," said Brian Stefanich, BHS principal. "When they leave us, they’re going to have a good idea, a good picture and be educated about what’s to come."

Ann Bardwell, Ramp-up to Readiness program coordinator and BHS teacher, said the program does not focus solely on four-year universities but on all post-high school plans, such as a two-year colleges or trade and technical schools.

"It could be a training program for a (retailer)," she said. "It’s about, ‘What are you going to need to do that career and to advance in that career?’"

The program, developed by the University of Minnesota, is designed to increase the number and diversity of students who graduate from high school with the knowledge, skills and habits necessary for success in college.

Stefanich said the program changes the question from, Are you going to college? to, Which college are you going to and how are you getting prepared?

There is a misconception that post-secondary education is solely for those born with a certain set of skills or intelligence, he said.

"That’s not true," Stefanich said. "Through hard work, attendance, being here and working on your studies, making those (studies) important in your life and being involved on campus, it all goes hand in hand with being successful."

Ramp-up to Readiness also puts BHS ahead of the game in meeting state guidelines for having college-readiness curriculum in place.

There are five pillars in the Ramp-up to Readiness program: academic readiness, admissions readiness, career readiness, financial readiness and personal/social readiness.

It works in tandem with existing programs, such as the high school’s Project Connect homeroom and school-pride initiatives such as Link Crew, a program that began simply as older students welcoming younger freshmen to campus.

But the Link Crew, with upward of 100 older students involved, now does much more. As part of next week’s Homecoming activities, for example, Link Crew students will go into homerooms to encourage Lumberjack pride and culture.

Travis Guida, BHS teacher and Link Crew adviser, said Link Crew students meet six to seven times with younger students, facilitating activities and lessons.

"The beauty of Ramp-up is that Ramp-up is providing the structural, the academic portion of this," Guida said. "Whereas the Link part started more relational, now we have some meat."

Students will focus on Ramp-up activities weekly. Each Wednesday, they spend 30 minutes working on program initiatives.

Bardwell, in acknowledging that students’ goals and aspirations will change many times over their lifetime, also noted that some may choose to delay college, for example initially joining the military and then later returning to school.

The program still works with those students, she said, noting that it provides the foundation for how to plan for the future.

"We give them those tools," Bardwell said

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