What happens when over 200 community members commit to spending twenty minutes with each of Knox County’s next generation leaders? Lives change.
Operation Preparation, an initiative to improve Kentucky’s college and career readiness, was held in Knox County the week of March 19, 2012.
Over 200 community members pledged to volunteering during the week, commiting at least one hour of their time to talk with 8th or 10th grade students about what they need to do to get ready for college and/or career.
Each 20 minute one-on-one session allowed volunteers to discuss the student’s interests, whether the student is on target to meet their goals, and plan their next steps for the future.
“Our community made an investment in the next generation and all it took was about an hour of their time,” said Frank Shelton, public information officer for the district.
“That one hour investment will have great returns as our 8th and 10th grade students take a serious look at what they need to do now in order to prepare for the future.”
Volunteers spent time getting acquainted with their student, discussed test scores and grades, looked at course offerings and other learning opportunities the student might be interested in, and offered insight and personal stories about their own education and area of expertise.
“We started soliciting volunteers in January by accepting commitments online,” stated Shelton. “When the week started we had several people to walk in and want to help out. They either heard about it through a friend or had not yet registered. By the end of the week, we had to turn volunteers away as we had already met our goal.”
The goal the school district achieved was 100% of all 8th and 10th grade students in attendance being mentored by a community volunteer at Knox County Middle, Knox Central High, and Lynn Camp Middle/High.
“The outpouring of community support was overwhelming,” said Tonya Allen, academic specialist at Knox County Middle School who helped organize the event.
“Above all, at the end of the week, our students understood just how many people are out there who care and are cheering them on toward success. KCMS students took much more away from these advising sessions than just information.”
One of the students advised was Amanda Wahlstedt, an 8th grade student at Knox County Middle School who is deciding between a major in nursing or information technology.
“I had a very good experience with Operation Preparation”, said Wahlstedt. “It helped me realize what I needed to do to get ready for high school and college and what classes I need to take to become a nurse or work on computers.”
Similar success stories were heard at Knox Central High and Lynn Camp Middle/High.
“Operation Preparation was a great success at Knox Central, we were represented by a wide variety of volunteers,” said Malena Cox, guidance secretary who helped organize Operation Preparation at the school. “Students said it really opened their minds up to many different career opportunities.”
Darya Logan, family resource aide and organizer at Lynn Camp, stated that she received praises and positive comments from students and volunteers.
“I [heard] from the community that Knox County was going above and beyond on this project,” stated Logan. “It takes a whole village to prepare for a project like this but motivating students is what matters.”
Among those who volunteered during Operation Preparation were faculty, staff, and students from Union College.
“Union College students/athletes, faculty and staff have been very generous with their time and knowledge in sharing with the students,” said Mary Alice Lay, associate professor of education.
“We value our partnership with Union College and appreciate their commitment to K-12 education and the Knox County community,” said Shelton.
Students who were absent during Operation Preparation will be mentored by the Gear Up academic specialist at their school or family resource staff.