BCS offering more options for high school senior graduates

Published 4:51 am Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Graduation is only about two months away for students at Bogalusa High School, and they now have more options for career- and college-readiness programs than ever before.

Shelley Gill, supervisor of federal programs at the Bogalusa City Schools, spoke to the Bogalusa Rotary Club on Tuesday about new developments in the city schools system. Gill explained that all students who graduate from Louisiana public schools are required to choose one of two diploma programs — either TOPS University (primarily for those who wish to attend a four-year college) or Jump Start Pathways (primarily for those who wish to attend a two-year community college or go straight into a career after graduation).

Gill said that previously as many as 95 percent of BHS seniors were steered into the TOPS University program, even though some of those graduates did not go on to attend a four-year school.

Gill said that Superintendent Lisa Tanner has put an increased focus on increasing the number of Jump Start Pathways programs that the school offers. Students who pursue a Jump Start Pathways diploma can take specific coursework that specializes in their preferred future career. In many cases, they can earn certifications or college credit even while still in high school.

Gill noted that the BCS offered just three Jump Start Pathways diplomas in 2017-18. They were Hospitality and Tourism, Certified Nursing Assistant and Welder’s Helper.

In the current 2018-19 year, BHS graduates can select from any of 10 Jump Start Pathways diplomas. In addition to the previous three, they can also choose from: Welder; Carpenter; Carpenter’s Helper; Digital Media; Manufacturing, Construction Crafts and Logistics; Information Technology; and Micro-Enterprise.

Plans are to add at least six more Jump Start Pathways diplomas in the 2019-20 year, Gill said. Three programs are already approved for next year, in the fields of Pre-Engineering, Prostart and Public Service.

As a result of increasing the choices for BHS graduates, more students are now selecting Jump Start Pathways diplomas. While previously only about 5 percent chose that diploma path, now about 20 percent of BHS graduates are pursuing Jump Start Pathways diplomas.

Tanner, who is a Rotary Club member, noted that students need not be worried about the social stigma of not going to college.

“There are a lot of kids who go on to be welders or in other careers and make more money than I do,” she said.

Gill also noted that more BHS students are taking dual-enrollment classes as well, where they can receive college credit at either Northshore Technical Community College or Southeastern Louisiana University. In 2016-17, only about 100 students took advantage of BHS’s dual enrollment programs. That number has increased to about 250 this school year.

Finally, Gill said that BCS previously was “below average” in the number of Jump Start Pathways diplomas that districts of its size offered. The school system is now well above the state average in that area, she said.

“We’ve really moved a lot, from where we were to where we are now,” Gill said. “We’re excited to continue to grow.”