Thinking about designing a program for your 8th grade students and/or parents? Here are some ideas!
Determine the scope. The Make High School Count program can be adapted for a small or large audience. A simple program at a middle school might involve one counselor using the overhead slides to present Make High School Count to students and/or parents. Or, a group can work together to develop a full-blown area-wide event that encompasses several school districts. Be realistic. How much time do you have? How much help? What type of resources?
Choose a planning committee. You will need help. You will need ideas. Even the smallest program should have more than one person involved. Draft people who are enthusiastic and who can have fun with the project, if possible. Two or three people can do the initial brainstorming for a large program, and others can be added as you need them.
Choose a site. Where will it be held? In a classroom at your middle school? In a high school auditorium? On a university campus? At a community center? Is there a usage cost? Is there parking? Is it accessible? Is it AVAILABLE?
Choose a date and time. Evening? Weekend? What else is going on at the same time? An hour is enough for a simple, no-frills information session. If you add additional speakers, break-out sessions, exhibits, etc., you will need several hours.
Who will present the information? You need to find the best public speaker available. Will you do it yourself? Will you use a guest speaker? Will you work with others as a team? You might contact a local college admissions representative, financial aid office representative, or state department of higher education staff for a speaker.
Consider a "celebrity" spokesperson. This can be a good idea if there is someone who naturally comes to mind. Most attempts to get sports stars, entertainers, politicians, etc., are more trouble than they're worth and often don't pan out. Think locally. Think of someone personable who might exemplify and speak to the value of a good education.
Consider how you will promote your program. Letters mailed to parents? Flyers sent home with students? Newsletter notices? Posters? Newspaper articles? Radio? Television?
Determine if you have/need funding. How much will it cost? Is there money in your budget? Can you solicit funds from other sources? Can you write a small grant proposal to some organization? Are there businesses in your area that might find it appealing to have a sponsor's acknowledgment in your program? If necessary, you might consider trying to get sponsorship for:
- promotional materials,
- door prizes, and
Consider inviting exhibitors. You might set up a browsing area before or after your program where participants can get further information. Consider including area postsecondary institutions and the state department of higher education? What about the military and Agencies and services related to the topic? Your school district?
Determine if you'll offer breakout sessions. Who will present them? Where will they be held? How much time will you allow? Some suggestions for topics:
- Paying for college (use a local college financial aid person)
- Choosing a college and the admission process
- School counselors and the services they provide
- Use of the Internet in college planning (a live demonstration is best)
- A panel of college students to discuss what they wished they would have done in 8th grade
And finally, make sure you have some method of evaluating your program so you'll know how to "tweak" it if you decide to do another program in the future.