Easing the Transition: Structuring Pathways to Prepare Students for College & Career

by Janelle Brown, Ellen Bohle, and Zachary Adams; Division of College, Career, and Technical Education

Tennessee Pathways believes that if students have strong advisement throughout K-12, then they will choose the pathway that is right for them. For many students, pursuing postsecondary opportunities after high school is a tightly held dream, but it can be difficult to understand what actions are necessary to continue the journey from high school to college and career. Creating structured experiences that are aligned and connected for students starting in early grades helps them to plan their progression from K-12 to postsecondary, while also lessening some of the anxiety students may experience after high school. With a combination of strong advisement, academic preparation, and rigorous opportunities in place, we can empower students to embark on a pathway to continued success in higher education and the world of work.

Mario Ramzy is a sophomore at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville where he is studying supply chain management with a pre-med concentration. He is very involved on campus, serving as a Student Alumni Associate, Math Camp Counselor, and a member of Coptic Orthodox Christian Ministries. Attending the University of Tennessee was always a dream for Mario, a dream cultivated by a strong support system of teachers, family, community members, and friends. “It is still a surreal feeling that I go there,” he says.

“Prior to high school, college was merely a big idea or goal,” he says. However, once Mario began attending Cane Ridge High School in Nashville, he began to recognize the importance of academic rigor and self-motivation in achieving his dream of attending UT. “From the get-go, I felt like it was very important for me to challenge myself, so I signed up for honors classes freshman year,” Mario recounts. He continued pushing himself through his high school’s offered honors classes, while also taking advantage of opportunities to further his success from the community. Through a program offered by Meharry Medical College, Mario was able to participate in an ACT preparation class that he described as “very beneficial.”

Later, he began to take advantage of dual enrollment opportunities through Nashville State Community College, eventually earning credit for five courses. These dual enrollment classes both prepared Mario for the rigor and responsibility of postsecondary coursework while also allowing him the flexibility to more comfortably deal with the stresses of his first year at the University of Tennessee. “Dual enrollment showed me what to expect when it came to how things worked on a college campus, like assignments, registering for classes, and the ins and outs of college life, even though that was a lot different at UT. It was also very nice not having to worry about classes that all freshmen were experiencing anxiety about, like English and Speech, since I had already taken them before coming to campus,” Mario says.

Mario Ramzy

While preparing for college, Mario began exploring opportunities for his career interests through a health science program of study in high school. “Starting from sophomore year, I began to learn so much about healthcare and the anatomy and physiology of the human body, various conditions and treatments, and so much more. I loved it, and it made me want to pursue the medical field even more. It also gave us so many opportunities,” Mario says. The program of study allowed Mario to take advantage of even more early postsecondary opportunities. “During my senior year, I was chosen to be a part of the Saint Thomas Health Scholars program. A woman from Saint Thomas would come and teach us all the information we needed to know about medical assisting, so we could take the Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA) exam and become certified medical assistants. By the end of the year, four other students and I were able to pass the exam and earn our certification.” This certification allowed Mario to get a job as a medical assistant and forge close connections with the doctors, nurses, and staff at Saint Thomas Health in Nashville. “It opened the door for me at St. Thomas. I am now a part of their family, and they are there to help me with anything that I need,” he says.

For Mario, these opportunities would not have been possible without a clear and structured path from a CTE program of study, to rigorous dual enrollment core classes, to a certified medical assistant certification, and, ultimately, to enrollment at the University of Tennessee. Mario’s success would also not have been possible without the support and advisement of those around him. “My counselor was so supportive of everything I did and helped me immensely with everything that I needed. Also, many of my teachers were very understanding, and they were always there for me. There were many teachers that would encourage my classmates and I to pursue our dreams.”

To learn more about building a strong culture of student advisement at your school, visit the Tennessee Pathways website, follow us on Twitter @TN_Pathways, or email Tennessee.Pathways@tn.gov.