Annual Design Your Future event is one of many career and college planning activities supporting students

Educators in Action

High school counselors and career/vocational guidance assistants in Bellingham Public Schools are vital links to the successful futures of our graduates. Every day they support students on the path to college or career. This support comes in many shapes and sizes.

Alongside helping with course selection and registration every school year and passing along information on colleges or internships, the counseling staff at high schools also supports districtwide events that assist our students in their ‘next chapter’ decision-making. These events include the annual College Fair that brings in upwards of 60 university and college representatives onsite to share their information and programs and FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) completion workshops for high school seniors to help figure out the financial puzzle that is a big part of the transition to colleges and universities.

One other college/career event in Bellingham Public Schools is Design Your Future. It was added to the annual school calendar in 2015. This event is an opportunity for high school students and families to begin thinking about and planning their post-high school years.

In 2015, the keynote speaker at the inaugural Design Your Future event was Maria Furtado of the much-lauded Colleges that Change Lives book and website. In 2016, the keynote address was given by Dr. George Bridges, president of The Evergreen State College and former president at Whitman College and in 2017, Mike Sexton, vice president for enrollment management at Santa Clara University in California gave the address.

The 2018 Design Your Future event was held at Bellingham High School with approximately 275 people in attendance. It was organized this year by director of Career and Technical Education Jeff Tetrick and Squalicum High counselor Kelly Boyer. They both believe this type of career/college planning event is important for students early in their high school years.

“We have such incredible and unique students who deserve to pave a path that is their own,” Boyer said. “This type of event allows the opportunity for students and families to network prior to solidifying their post high school plans.”

Craig Lang, the chair of the Career and Technical General Advisory Council, gave the 2018 keynote address on Discovering your Passion, the important topic of finding what you love in work. Lang is also the co-founder and director of BRAVO 369 Flight Foundation and a professional writer and international speaker.

“It was great having a keynote speaker talk to the audience on discovering and following your passion,” Tetrick said, “and also on exploring all the range of possibilities that are out there.”

“Events like these are important for students and families to get information about all the opportunities that are in front of a high school graduate,” he continues. “Design Your Future is also a great opportunity to engage our community partners to highlight career and educational pathways.”

Boyer agrees. “It’s nice to have the community come together as one schoolhouse offering a variety of workshop sessions, and demonstrating the array of path options for students.”

The evening included the keynote address as well as the opportunity to attend three different breakout sessions/workshops hosted by regional higher education specialists on a variety of topics which included:

  • College Quest at Western Washington University
  • Strategies to Maximize Financial Aid
  • Technical College/Community College Opportunities
  • DigiPen Institute of Technology
  • Services Academies, ROTC, and Officer Training
  • Apprenticeships
  • The ACT and SAT, and
  • Covering College Costs.

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