According to staff member Joanne Ustad, director of the Pathways to Success program, LIFE is simply "an opportunity to work with students in developing academic and career goals." LIFE is a statewide initiative that works alongside with the High Schools That Work program. Basically, students are assigned to be under the tutelage of individual staff members, who present these mini advisory groups with a guidance office-approved lesson plan. Advisory groups meet twice a month in a new time slot between second and third period on Tuesdays. LIFE's next lessons are set for April 10 and 24.
LIFE was established due to high demands from today's competitive world. High schools are often faced with increased drop out rates and need to offer a more rigorous curriculum in order to conform to demands claiming the youth of America need to make wise modern career choices. "It's a way of preparing you for the careers of the 21st century," Ustad said. "(?) There's certainly been a big push at state level to integrate career and technical education with academics." LIFE will be able to answer this calling by making high school students better aware of their responsibilities, but most importantly, their opportunities.
Long-term goals include creating a connection with the adults of the school building; these staff members can, too, guide students in decision-making or goal-setting. Teachers will not be guidance counselors but rather advisors – someone else to go to. Ustad remarked, "Hopefully you get 15 kids with which to develop a relationship."
Reactions to day one of LIFE:
As with most proposals at the high school level, a certain degree of disdain arose from the student population, in particular the seniors.
"Well, it seemed to me like something the school came up with to waste more of our time," senior Britney Holmberg said. "I guess I just don't see the point in the whole LIFE advisory thing for seniors this year because we have everything for college and things like that figured out."
Senior Stacey Joy agrees with Holmberg, but gives an analysis as to why LIFE may-well, fail.
"LIFE program: Good idea, bad plan of attack," she started. "I don't know that it is consistent enough to make a difference for us at all. Maybe they (administration) should've started it at the beginning of the year." Joy, however, reflects, "? but I guess this is a good trial period."
Rome wasn't built in a day, and this new program is barely out of the delivery room; seniors are not the only ones noticing this, either. Junior Stephanie Swier approached the topic with certain incredulity.
"I thought that the LIFE program was kind of pointless; I guess I can't really say much since it was only the first time we've had it." She said, continuing with a more hopeful forecast, "Maybe after a couple more times of having it, it will be more beneficial to us all."
Another junior, Tyler Husby, seemed to enjoy the concept of LIFE. "I have Dibley and Schnack attack (?) everyone asks for police stories," he said. "But it seems okay so far. We didn't do too much the first day (?) It will probably work; I am glad we have it because it will help us kids that live in a box and don't understand this stuff."
This stuff is a phrase which here means "calculating GPAs, picking out colleges, working through applications, learning about transcripts and understanding what the guidance office does for the students."
"I learned a lot about how to calculate my GPA," senior Annie Roche said. Fellow senior Ryan Powell teasingly added, "What's a GPA?"
Jokes aside, Ryan Scheidel pointed out the basic conception of the program in a senior's eyes. "It's great for underclassmen – it's kind of pointless for us," he said.
Reactions to day two of LIFE:
As the weeks pass, the concept of LIFE becomes clearer for the students at VHS; however, some students still raise concerns about the program.
"So far it's not teaching us something we already don't know," junior Stephanie Heer said. "I want them to teach me something I already don't know."
Sophomore Jiwen Li expounded a bit further and stated the essential aspect of betterment for any program: "In the future, LIFE can continually improve to meet our guidance needs."
Freshman Ashley Ouellelle looked at the bright side of the program. "(It) cuts out of class time," she said. Ouellelle wants to see more activities planned in future LIFE classes.
Perhaps freshman Cole Andre was in the right when he said, "It's got a bright future."
Teachers are neophytes to LIFE, just like the students. According to Ustad, "Teachers have been very receptive to it." Staff members were quick to raise concerns and bring up questions to the table during meetings with the guidance office.