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New Website Guides Students Preparing for College, Careers

October 23, 2019 News, Talent Pipeline

Middle and high school students now have one more tool to help them prepare for college or careers, thanks to a collaborative effort led by Polk Vision.

Be The Future Be U is two things: It is a collection of resources and it is a community of engaged students focused on preparing for their future,” said Polk Vision Executive Director Kim Long.

The new website started as an idea to update a career and college readiness brochure in September 2018, when Polk Vision contacted students at Lake Region High School’s iMAG Academy for design help. A simple idea evolved into something much bigger — a “web site designed to support an online community and an interactive information trading post,” Long said.

“The Be The Future Be U website, which launched on the first day of school in August 2019, has been created to support students in achieving their job and career goals while providing parents with helpful information and resources,” Long said.

The website includes Quick Guides, Important Dates, Checklists, Resources, a Be U Gallery and more.

“Developed for use by middle school and high school age students, the site contains age-appropriate information on topics ranging from advanced high school course selections to early college admission options. It’s all about planning, and Polk Vision has launched this online tool to help students and their parents connect to local, state and national resources.”

Polk Vision held focus groups and training sessions with students, teachers and school counselors to decide what information was needed to “bridge the many disconnects between students and the career planning process,” Long said. More than a hundred students provided feedback for the site.

The Polk County School District’s Counseling Services Department collected information for the website throughout the 2018-2019 school year.

Marissa Barnes, who attended Polk County public schools and graduated from Harrison School for the Arts in 2011, started helping Polk Vision with content and functionality, but she was quickly attracted to interacting with other students.

“I felt that this was a great opportunity to give back to younger generations by preparing them for the road ahead,” Barnes said.

“I enjoy being able to meet with students across the county to hear their unique stories and struggles and offer them a possible solution. Not every student is ready to have a conversation about FAFSA and scholarships. However, every student has a passion, and I try my best to start the conversation by turning their interest into a realistic career path.”

Although she’s pursuing another opportunity, she envisions other students who are willing to give back to their community will help the website and its vision grow.

Polk Vision encourages students and parents to share information and tips on how to navigate the higher-education system. Long said it’s a resource that was clearly needed.

“After conducting in-depth focus groups and information-sharing sessions with students from ages 13-18, the engagement and excitement for scholarships, academic advice and inspirational guidance tailored specifically for students like them was clear,” Long said. “Each student deserves an opportunity to put their best foot forward on the path to success.”

Be the Future Be U is one of many Polk Vision initiatives focused on improving educational attainment and workforce readiness, Long said. To spread the word, Polk Vision has collaborated with the Polk County School Board, government officials, local businesses and students. It also has worked with the school system’s career academies to provide training to middle school counselors and distributed more than 50,000 pieces of Be The Future Be U collateral in welcome packets for middle and high school students.

To keep the site fresh, Polk Vision is “actively seeking blog content from anyone within Polk County,” Long said. “We believe that everyone in our community has insight that would be valuable for students today, and we are encouraging them to voice their knowledge through our platform.”

Long said the website and the community being built isn’t a project.

“It is a commitment to a process of engagement with potentially big rewards if we can reach and assist students and their parents in achieving their goals.”

For additional information about this topic or how to become a partner with the Central Florida Development Council, please contact Lindsay Zimmerman at lindsay@cfdc.org.

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