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It's decision time for eighth-graders

While eighth-graders throughout the county are thinking about sunshine, sandy beaches and other spring break fantasies, middle and high school counselors are searching for ways to help them and their parents make good choices for the next school year.

Already, eighth-graders have received high school curriculum guides and should have been studying them, said Beth Becker, assistant principal at Dunedin High School.

And in a best-case scenario, parents will be talking with the students about interests and goals and helping them make good choices, Becker said.

According to Dunedin High counselor Sherry Lamb, here's how the registration process works at her school and at other high schools throughout the county.

"We start talking with the middle school counselors around February . . . basically to give them information as to the classes that we'll be offering the next year," Lamb explained.

"We make preparations to send them a curriculum guide so that they can start getting their students _ and hopefully their parents _ looking at alternatives.

"From that point, the middle school counselors and (the students') teachers make recommendations for core subjects _ the academic subjects. But it's important for the students to think about their electives and also the levels of math and English and science they wish to take."

High school students are required to complete 24 credits in order to graduate, Lamb said. The 24 credits include four English, three math, three social studies, three science, one art, one physical education and one semester (one-half credit) of health. Each student is allowed eight and a half elective credits.

Though teachers do make recommendations about which core subjects a student should take, within certain guidelines, the student and his parents are allowed to make changes.

"They have an option of moving on to a higher level," Lamb said.

Maybe the student's career goals require that she take a more advanced _ or a less demanding _ math course than has been recommended. Talks with counselors can help settle such differences before the student is locked into a particular choice.

High school counselors will be going to the middle schools to talk to students about electives and career goals.

"We can look at all the variables and say "this looks like a good recommendation for you.'

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Or, if recommended choices don't fit with the student's goals, counselors will help them decide how to change directions, she said.

Course selection "needs to be based upon where you see yourself going after high school _ your career destination _ and if you're planning on a four-year college right out of high school," Lamb said.

Students who take the tougher math courses leave their options open, she said.

"They have a lot more flexibility."

Lamb explained that parents can provide valuable input by considering points such as these: "What are my daughters abilities? What are my son's interests? He might be interested in oceanography, but if he hates science, that might not be a good career choice."

"That's why it's really important for the parents to be there. I think a lot of parents think high school is a time when they're not needed as much when, in fact, they're needed more.

"A lot of people forget that we're really educating our students to be successful out there, but there are just so many emerging careers that take specialized training _ there is such diversity _ that it is confusing."

To help alleviate the confusion, counselors with help from the PTA and School Advisory Council, have set up a career center at Dunedin High School.

"It's a small area in size, but we have a lot of information in it. There are five computers with software programs with information about four-year colleges, community colleges and technical schools throughout the state and country. It also has software with . . . questions that help students determine what their interests are, information about specific careers, what the salaries are, employment requirements and a cross-walk that tells what schools offer training in the field.

"It's a very good resource. We have a wealth of information just waiting for people to come in and take advantage of it."

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