Preparing students for life beyond high school can mean many things. It can mean making sure they have the knowledge and technical skills needed for a specific job. Or helping them achieve the GPA or course requirements needed to get into a certain college or university. It should also mean focusing on what are sometimes called the “soft skills”–I call them “life skills.”
Life skills are the social and emotional skills that help someone succeed, both in academics and in life–skills like relationship-building, personal responsibility, and decision-making. When you start to look at what the ideal graduate looks like, they would have both academic and social and emotional skills.
I serve as principal of the 540-student Business Technology Early College High School (BTECH) in Queens, New York. Our focus is on underserved youth who are interested in careers in information technology and computers. We have many pathways and partnerships to help prepare students for college and career.
For instance, in 9th grade our elective courses follow a Career Technical Education (CTE) tract for computer science. Students take an introduction to computer science, they learn Python coding language, and then more advanced courses to successfully earn an Amazon Web Services (AWS) certification. In addition, in 10th grade they take a college engagement and career course which helps them make the decision whether they’ll go on the college track or stay on the CTE track at the high school. We have a partnership with Queensborough Community College that allows students to earn an applied associate degree in computer information systems or internet and information technology while they’re enrolled at the BTECH School.
These pathways are core components of the work we do in preparing our students for their future. Another core component is our focus on social and emotional learning (SEL).
The role of SEL
Time and time again, employer surveys have indicated that the most valuable skills employers are seeking when looking for prospective employees are non-academic skills like those social and emotional skills I mentioned earlier. This is why SEL programs are so important, and why this is such a big focus at BTECH.
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