Fentress County Schools is putting part of a $2.7 million Innovative Schools grant toward getting middle school students interested in different careers.
The program would allow middle school students to pick from classes like cosmetology, nursing, culinary arts, and similar interest-based and career-based courses. Classes have already began in this program, but Fentress County STEM Coach Sheri Stilts said the additional money can help refine the program.
“When they hit the door in high school we want them to already kind of have an idea, not just be thinking then, but have an idea of what they don’t like to do and what they do like to do, what fits their personality, and their aptitudes and strengths,” Stilts said.
Stilts said by the seventh or eighth grade students know what career paths interest them and then they can pursue those interest in high school with experience under their belt. Stilts said the program is also designed to retain students.
“Kids sixth through eighth grade they’re not really interested in school anymore,” Stilts said. “When I was in school you went to school so you could get a job and buy a house. They don’t believe that anymore. They don’t see how that’s going to happen, so we need something that’s going to get them to want to come to school and find something they love and enjoy doing the rest of their life. So they’ll want to come in, and they’ll get the skills, and they’ll continue on.”
Stilts said the school is doing all the basic classes still like math, English, science, and PE, but this program allows students to take different classes and see what they like and don’t like.
“When they take ownership in these classes and the things that they are doing and these projects. Project-based learning we are adding those in there as well as part of these classes. That makes kids want to be there. If they want to be there, their attendance goes up, their behavior goes down. It’s a win-win for everyone.”
Stilts said she hoped to use the grant money to start an Agriculture class and to purchase virtual welders for the school, so kids can safely see if welding is for them. Stilts said the school is also working on getting STEM designated.