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New '8.5' program meant to help Putnam students discover careers

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- In another effort to help students discover a career interest, Putnam County middle school principals are trying to choose eighth-graders who will participate in a new program, which will allow them to earn high school credits.The "8.5" program will allow about 20 students to focus on career development in a high school setting, said Penny Fisher, assistant superintendent of pupil services.Middle school principals are in the process of identifying the students who would spend morning hours at their middle schools and take a bus to Winfield High in the afternoon to attend class and earn high school credits."We're trying to help students get some idea of what works and what doesn't," Fisher said. "Those students who have plans to get a four-year [college degree] would focus on that and it can also help other students identify tech programs they might be interested in."Putnam Superintendent Chuck Hatfield has said a large number of high school graduates in Putnam go on to college, but that nearly two out of three don't earn a degree. For that reason, Putnam schools have started focusing on career-readiness skills and are developing programs to help students figure out career paths."This is kind of a different look at career development than what we've traditionally been doing," Fisher said.The group of middle school students would be in their own class, which would be taught by a high school teacher, she said.
Some of the program would include discussing career possibilities and taking field trips to businesses."Students will learn data related to jobs in our area and what jobs are available and what degrees are necessary to get those jobs," she said.Once possible students for the program are identified, they'll be given an application, according to Fisher.But Fisher didn't want to say what might qualify a student to participate."I hesitate to be specific, because I don't want kids to come in under any label. It's really up to the schools and the principals to make those recommendations," she said.So far, three of the county's four middle schools have agreed to participate. They are Winfield, Hurricane and George Washington middle schools. Poca also might participate in the future, according to Fisher.Specifics about the program are still being discussed, but Fisher believes it's another step toward encouraging students to think ahead."We've been really focused on career education for a year and a half, and we've been working on dropout prevention," she said. "Kids need career education sooner. They don't know all of the things that are available to them."Reach Kate White at or 304-348-1723.
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