School-to-Work Initiative Sets Up Students for Future Success


NFA Class of 2018 EB Pipeline Students

Jack Holdsworth, Staff Writer

While the emblems of colleges and universities cover the halls of many high schools, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that in 2018, only 65.9% of graduating high school students enrolled in college the following year. At Norwich Free Academy, approximately 200 students graduate each year without having a definite plan for their future.

“I think, as a school, we realized that we have to find ways to better support the hundreds of kids on campus who are going in a different direction other than college immediately after high school,” said NFA Guidance department head Jessica St.George.

In an effort to provide equal preparation for all students, whether they plan on attending college or not, NFA has launched the “School-to-Work” initiative.

“We are really trying to find career paths for kids that may not be going to college right away when they leave NFA,” said NFA Career and Technical Education department head Linda Farinha, adding, “that has kicked off a broader exploration in terms of what types of opportunities can be available to our students.”

To better prepare students to enter the workforce directly from high school, NFA has partnered with local businesses who are actively searching for qualified employees.

“There has been a lot of collaboration with community partners that want to help create these programs, and community partners that want to hire students out of high school,” said St.George, citing programs such as the Electric Boat Manufacturing Pipeline, a Certified Nursing Assistant class, and partnerships with the local casinos as examples of community collaboration.

Employment preparation has also been incorporated into modified level classes, in which students receive extra practice with skills that need improvement.

“In British Literature, for instance, they are incorporating career education within [the curriculum]. They are taking a character in a text, and tying that back, and asking, ‘what kind of job would that character apply for if they were living in today’s age?’ They might talk about interview questions: ‘how would this character answer this interview question, and how would you answer this interview question?’ It is making the content of the class come alive,” explained Farinha.

The initiative aims to prepare students for sustainable full-time employment immediately after high school

“Sustainable employment is a job where you get a salary, there is room for upward improvement, you get benefits, you get healthcare, you get 401(k) opportunities. It is a job that you can make a living off of, that you can raise a family off of, that you can do everything you need to do,” said St. George.

Class of 2017 Alumni Zach Novosad is disappointed that the School-to-Work initiative did not yet exist during his time at NFA.

“I feel like important life skills were missed, and may only have been offered as an elective, instead of a required class, and things like that I feel are extremely important to know right out of high school,” Novosad said, adding that since he graduated, “It has been a matter of trying to figure myself out.”

By instituting this new initiative, members of the School-To-Work Committee hope to effectively lay the groundwork for students to find success in their future lives.

“Kids are getting training in high school, so before they walk across the stage for graduation, they have credentials to get a job right away,” Farinha said.

As illustrated by well-known public figures such as Bill Gates, Michael Dell, and Rachel Ray, college is not part of everyone’s path to success. Novosad believes that by introducing this initiative, NFA is recognizing, and more broadly preparing its students for many paths to success.

“Success is being able to sustain yourself and whoever else you might bring into your life while doing what you love to do. It is being happy,” said Novosad.

Although not every NFA graduate will go on to college, the committee members hope that students  will be able to employ the many benefits of the School-to-Work initiative on their journey to a successful future.