An appeal to the board: Noll students are thirsty for more real-world opportunities, so let’s continue to increase the offerings

In addition to STEM-related courses, students should see other career-focused classes or workshops

Caitlyn Grcich, Managing Editor

“How many of you plan to go to college?” I asked my friends as we gathered around the table in Ms. Schmidt’s classroom, pre-calculus books open and Honors Junior English notebooks littering the space around us.

“Don’t we all plan on going to college? I mean, our parents are sending us here for a reason,” Brianna Ruiz said, looking at the group of eight of us expectantly.

“Well, yeah, but not everyone wants to go, and besides, there are some cool programs that get people’s feet in the door of careers without having to attend years of college,” Monica Magallanes stated, matter-of-factly.

“We should start a petition to get a program like a career-ready program implemented within the school!” A few people said, as I sat there, shocked. If my peers want a program like this so badly, what would it take to convince the school board of it, too?

Bishop Noll is known throughout Northwest Indiana as one of the premier college preparatory schools in the area. However, with times gradually changing, it appears as if college isn’t necessarily the route everyone is bound to head down, though it is pushed from the very beginning. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in 2015, the employment rate for 20- to 24-year-olds (also referred to as “young adults”) with a bachelor’s degree or higher was higher than the rate for young adults with some college but no bachelor’s degree (89 vs. 76 percent). The employment rate for young adults with some college was higher than the rate for those who had completed high school (67 percent).

Even while this is the case, the National Center for Education Statistics also states that while occupationally specific courses are organized into program areas, high school students typically do not formally enroll in an occupational program. “Instead, they may take one or more courses in a single occupational program, or courses scattered throughout the occupationally specific curriculum. Moreover, while the majority of students take occupational courses during their high school careers, they do so for a variety of reasons. Some students take introductory business or technical and communications courses, for example, to gain hands-on computer experience, whereas others are required by their high schools to complete a vocational course in order to graduate”.

Bishop Noll is well-known to offer a range of dual credit and advanced placement classes, from US History offered through Purdue Northwest to Senior Biblical Literature offered through Calumet College. Even though Bishop Noll offers all these Dual Credit classes, I can’t help but feel like we’re missing out on a big opportunity – career programs where students are offered a half-day of school in turn for working the other half of the day in the area of their choice, or even if Bishop Noll began to offer career classes at the school, so there would be both minimum cost and easier access to those who wish to participate. With teachers and faculty members who have backgrounds ranging from teaching Home Economics to having experience in and with the media, there is a whole plethora of knowledge and skills that could easily be explored if these options of not only college-ready opportunities were made readily available to the Bishop Noll student body. And I am not the only one who feels this way. With an average of 21-percent of college students dropping out of college within the first year, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, it seems as if many could have benefitted from a career program, since not everyone is cut out for college.

Junior Monica Magallanes agreed with me, saying, “I think that those 21% simply weren’t prepared for the rigor of college, or don’t trust themselves enough to have gotten through it. With the experience of a career program, many would be able to have faith in themselves and a better idea of what path they would want to be on”.
Even if someone wants to attend college, who is to say that they would not benefit at all from a taste in their desired field of study?  Even with the implementation of STEM and Bishop Noll moving to STREAM (Science, Technology, Religion, Engineering, Arts and Math), if students don’t intend to pursue a degree or career in those fields, it almost seems to be a waste of time. The STREAM educational trend is awesome and Bishop Noll is moving forward in the most cutting-edge way by implementing an engineering course and a computer coding course. However, reliance upon STEM-only courses can send the message to students that only those careers are important in the real world. Our students could be benefited by receiving the chance to experience the field they want to be in before they make the commitment of choosing their major—whether it be here at Bishop Noll with elective classes like auto mechanics, culinary arts, advanced health and safety, agriculture; tutorials and workshops during Student Resource Time periods; or transferrable classes at a commuter college or the Hammond Area Career Center.

When it is shown that according to the National Math and Science Initiative, 8 percent of students who start with a STEM major do not graduate with one, there is a margin. It is only with the implementation of career-based and career-oriented programs that Bishop Noll can move ahead to continue to be the premier Catholic College Preparatory school in Northwest Indiana.

So, I, along with my fellow students, ask the Bishop Noll school board, Bishop Noll Faculty and Staff, and the Bishop Noll student body to explore different opportunities to keep Bishop Noll at the top of their game, and to help Bishop Noll alum continue to strive for greatness long after they graduate.