October is a busy month for Gayle Dudley and the scores of Steamboat Springs High School seniors deciding their post-graduation plans.
On a typical fall day, a steady flow of students enter and exit the Career Center, where pennant-lined walls and shelves loaded down with college manuals give juniors and seniors the resources to make a higher education or career choice that best fits each individual.
"I want to make sure students know what their choices are and that they have the resources to make good decisions," said Dudley, who is in her third year in charge of the Career Center. "I want to see they've made an informed choice."
Dudley and a team of parent volunteers work hard to provide Steamboat students with the tools they need to make those choices.
Just two months into the 2003-04 school year, Dudley has met with every senior individually to determine his or her post-high school priorities. Dudley said she's able to suggest specific schools or career options to students once she knows their interests.
"The more I know about the kids, the more I can help them," she said.
Volunteers come to the Career Center daily to help students work on scholarship and financial aid applications as well as other must-dos in a process that can be confusing and stressful.
Four computers hooked up to the Internet via high-speed connections give students who visit the Career Center fast access to university Web sites and other useful Web-based sites and tools. A student workstation includes telephone access so students can call schools to request information or ask questions.
Bookshelves filled with updated manuals from schools across the nation and state provide a wealth of information for college-bound students. For those who don't see higher education as the next step, similar manuals and reference tools exist for a variety of careers.
"Eighty-five percent of all jobs require some training beyond high school, but only 25 percent of those require four-year degrees," Dudley said. "(Students) can go a variety of ways."
What Dudley and others are finding is that Steamboat graduates are going in increasingly broader directions. Nearly 80 percent of the 2003 graduating class is attending either four-year, two-year or technical schools. Those students attend schools as far away as Alaska and Maine and as close as Colorado Mountain College's Alpine Campus.
The Career Center's resources are an immense help to students such as Meryl Meranski, who spent part of her school day last week working on college applications.
Meranski, a 17-year-old senior, plans to apply to colleges in Boston, New York and Chicago to pursue her interest in the visual and performing arts. Two of her applications are due
"The (Career) Center really helps out," she said.
Dudley also hosts a series of seminars every fall. The topic of a seminar held Thursday was "Choosing your college major." Others deal with the college application process, narrowing down college choices and finding financial aid.
The Career Center has expanded under Dudley's leadership, and her training in counseling and vocational administration allows the school to collect state funding to help support the center. Dudley said the quality of the school's Career Center is unique among public schools, and she credits the school's administration for its support of the center.
"I love it," Dudley said of her work with kids. "I think I've got the best job in the world because I've got everything the kids want -- like recommendations."
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