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Project helps youths see their future

Getting children to think about a career at an early age, then preparing them to succeed in their choice is the focus of a new Citrus County school district initiative called "School to Work."

For years, Citrus schools have offered various activities to prepare children for the working world. Now, the district is streamlining the activities so that every child has access to the same information, said Linda Connors, who coordinates the program.

Details of the School to Work plan will be presented to area business leaders at a breakfast this morning. Connors said the district hopes area businesses will hire more high school students as part of the program.

"This (initiative) is for all students . . . even those who are college-bound," Connors said. "What we're trying to do is make even more deliberate career awareness activities."

College-bound students need help making career choices, too. "There are those who go to college and don't have a major" for some time, she said.

In the past, Connors said, many teachers organized career awareness activities. Under the new plan, "it wouldn't matter which teacher you got," she said: All would present the same curriculum about career choices.

The plan coordinates activities at three levels _ elementary, middle and high school.

At the elementary schools: organizing career-oriented field trips, encouraging career fairs, using guest speakers from the community and continued participation in the Art $mart arts and crafts store at Crystal River Mall.

In the middle schools: using the new "real game" curriculum, which teaches students about career opportunities; revising the career planning process and providing detailed information about career training opportunities in the district, from tech-prep courses and academies to the training offered at Withlacoochee Technical Institute.

For the high schools: open career opportunity centers at each school; eventually, a video produced through Lecanto and Crystal River high schools to highlight various jobs; and work-based activities.

Connors said much of the focus in the coming year will be on finding better ways not just to make students aware of careers, but also to gauge each student's interests and abilities.

Another aspect aims at reaching parents with some of the same messages.

"We want to tell parents their children don't have to go to college to be successful," she said. "And we want them to know that the earlier their student has that (career choice) identified, the better it will be."

The School Board is expected to talk in more detail about School to Work at a workshop. In the meantime, Connors said the district is moving forward with as much of the plan as it can.

"Some students will already be doing these things, the motivated ones, the ones who have parents helping them," she said. "We want to expand this to all the students. We just want them to make informed decisions."