Co-Author Debby Gregory

For the past five years, the Chehalis School District has set a priority of preparing students for career and college. It all started when the Chehalis Foundation provided funding to hire the Baker Evaluation Research Consultants (BERC) Group, an educational evaluation, research and consulting firm to take an independent look at the district and make recommendations for future success. Through this, the School Achievement Initiative was born, with the goals of improving instructional practices in the classroom, modernizing those instructional practices with a sustainable technology plan and preparing students for success in career and college.

Students have an opportunity to talk with various businesses about career opportunities during the College and Career Fair. Photo courtesy: Chehalis School District.

A special partnership with the Chehalis Foundation provides ongoing support for Chehalis students, and includes enthusiastic assistance from Holiday Inn Express. “We are always looking to support organizations that are doing their part to move the community forward,” says Todd Chaput, Manager of Holiday Inn Express & Suites Chehalis-Centralia.

A Focus On Career and College Readiness

As part of this effort, the district has hired Kerri Chaput, College Preparatory Advisor, to support students through the college admission process. Kerri, who previously worked in the field of financial aid for higher education, brings a wealth of knowledge. She provides ongoing activities that help prepare W.F. West students including career fairs, apprenticeship panels, guest speakers and college tours. Kerri builds relationships with students and gets to know which schools they might be interested in attending or which careers they might like to pursue.

“My role is to build relationships and support students and families through navigating the admission process,” said Kerri. “I get to know our seniors, what career and education paths they hope to pursue, and I work with our staff and school counselors to support them along the way.”

College Preparatory Advisor Kerri Chaput brings in speakers, such as Dr. Pope, to talk to students about possible career opportunities. Photo courtesy: Chehalis School District.

Preparing Learners at All Levels

A district goal is to increase college graduation rates and prepare students for life beyond high school, whether that’s entering a two or four-year college, trade school, the military or pursuing a career.

Younger students have an opportunity to see seniors preparing to graduate as part of Senior Celebration Day where graduates visit their former elementary and middle schools in their caps and gowns.

At the middle school level, eligible students are encouraged to apply for the College Bound Scholarship, a scholarship designed to inspire and encourage middle school students from low-income families to prepare for and pursue postsecondary education. Chehalis School District was recognized by the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction for being among the top-performing districts in the state in terms of preparing students to take advantage of this opportunity.

All ninth and tenth graders take the Pre-SAT test for free to help prepare them for the college application process.

Over the past few years, an increased number of students have participated in Advanced Placement (AP) courses and taken AP tests. High school students have the opportunity to earn college credit while still in high school with qualifying scores on AP tests.

“College in the high school” is an opportunity for students to take college classes without leaving W.F. West. W.F. West has a Career and College Readiness Block, which provides a dedicated time each day for college and career related activities, such as admissions workshops and goal setting. During this time, W.F. West students use the Naviance career and college readiness program to explore potential career and college opportunities, and learn how to prepare for the path they choose, including taking career interest surveys and assessments to help them plan ahead.

“I’m so fortunate that career and college readiness is a priority at W.F. West and we’ve carved out time for this work,” said Kerri. “Otherwise it would be a challenge to find adequate time in the day.”

“We want to make sure our Bearcat graduates have the support they need to persist and finish their post-secondary education,” said Bob Walters, W.F. West Principal.

The College and Career Fair gives students a chance to explore many different options. Photo courtesy: Chehalis School District.

STEM Education Sets CSD Apart

Data shows that jobs in STEM-related fields (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) will be in high demand in the future. W.F. West High School is a leader in STEM education. A new STEM wing opening in January 2018 will offer a state-of-the-art learning facility for STEM courses. Chehalis students are fortunate to have access to a highly technical Scanning Electron Microscope for college-level scientific research. The Robotics team continues to compete in regional, national and even international competitions. Summer STEM camps have offered opportunities for students to operate drones, conduct science experiments and even use Centralia College’s lab.

Efforts Are Paying Off

Data shows that efforts to increase college-preparedness are paying off.  Fifty-one percent of W.F. West’s Class of 2016 was eligible for a four-year college. That’s up from 38 percent in 2013.

Todd Chaput is very enthusiastic about the program. “Holiday Inn Express is excited to support this program and we are anxious to see the positive results this will have in years to come.”

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