Montgomery Blair High School's Online Student Newspaper
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March 17, 2005

Blair's Career Center provides for students in stressful times

by Varun Gulati, Page Editor
You've seen the banana-colored pages towards the front of your planbook. You've doodled on them, folded them into creative designs or even flat-out ignored them. But what are those pages really for?

The answer lies with the Career Center, more formally known as the "College/Career Information Center." The "yellow pages" stem from years of doing a 32-page Career Center bulletin of essential college and career information, mailed home to students and parents. At one time or another, the information has been printed on lilac, red and green pages all attempts to grab the attention of students. The Career Center, though under-recognized, is still a gold mine of knowledge for students and staff alike.

A wealth of information

Walking into the Career Center, a student can easily see its versatility. Ahead, SAT information lies scattered across a table. To the right, a file cabinet sits under Christmas-green cutouts that spell "scholarships." Along the left wall, various posters advertise summer opportunities. Here in the Career Center, students can find information on virtually any college, degree or profession imaginable from pedologist to social worker. Among 3,400 students at Blair, any career goal is possible. "Blair is such a fascinating place. One minute [a student] might want be a scientist, the other minute they might want to be a gunsmith," says Cathy Henderson-Stein, a Career Center assistant.

The Career Center supplies students with a number of resources that traditional college/career web sites, such as Princeton Review, cannot. According to Henderson-Stein, the linchpin of Career Center operation is the one-on-one counseling that each student receives. Often, aides or assistants can connect a student with other people who can assist him or her, such as college representatives, military recruiters and Blair graduates at specific colleges. "Those names and numbers aren't available in books," says Henderson-Stein with a smile.

For some students, the Career Center provides the counseling and direction they need to launch into their future. "Here, you have more assistance," junior Anne-Sylvi Youm points out. "They're always there when you need them." If not the assistants, the various notices posted around the room can provide information on college visit schedules, scholarship opportunities or SAT registration information all within a hand's reach.

Some Blair teachers can attest to the resourcefulness of the Career Center. "It's a library of information," says science teacher Aaron Williams. "I think that's a benefit that Blair has that a lot of people don't tap into."

Coping with pressures

Career Information Coordinator Sharon Williams, who has directed the Career Center for 17 years, says one of the major problems for the Center is funding. Since MCPS has instituted budget cuts, the Center's financial situation has only been exacerbated. On several occasions, Williams has had to go out of her way to meet the center's demands. "The money is not there to support the materials," explains Williams, citing the need for more private financial grants and sponsors for various programs. "If you need to integrate the classes and career tracks, you need to support it financially."

Part of the lack of financial resources is caused by the antiquated procedure for requesting materials. While most other departments have a modern system for requesting resources using online forms, the Career Center must use carbon paper and a snail-mail form to get what they need.

However, technology has helped to make the center processes more streamlined and accessible. With an array of Dell computers available specifically for the Career Center, students have been able to connect with programs such as the Bridges Choices Planner, TCCi Family Connections, CollegeBoard Online, Bridges Test Gear and CollegeCountdown. Moreover, the use of BEN and the Career Center's web site has helped reduce the time needed to efficiently relay information to students.

Williams describes the pressures of her job but does not hesitate to admit that she enjoys what she does for students. "You're in a Catch-22 situation. You try to meet the needs all the time," explains Williams. "Then you go to the programs, and you realize it's all worth it. You see the potential of Child A and Child B, and you get excited about what you can bring back and share with [the students]." Often, her job requires her to stay after until 9:00 or 10:00 at night without overtime pay. In fact, the official MCPS job description of "Career Information Coordinator" lists a special requirement: "Ability to work overtime or unusual hours as required by career activities or programs."

"Safe haven"

Blair's Career Center is one of a kind, says Williams. "Because of the diversity of this school and the needs of the students, we do things that are not traditional," she states. "And we're proud of it."

On several occasions, Williams has gone out of her way to assist students. One student was homeless. Williams helped the student find financial assistance, and she did what she could to ease the student's pressure. One girl went to Williams, learned how to do taxes and now does them for her parents. "Students migrate here for a variety of issues relating to but not limited to the college- and career-planning process," says Williams.

The Career Center is what Williams describes as a "safe haven" to students, a place where they can come for advice on almost any trouble and seek information on almost any topic. "There's no Career Center like the Montgomery Blair High School Career Center," declares Williams with pride.

The Career Center is located in the 120s hallway and is open the entire school day.

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  • A senior! on March 17, 2005 at 6:54 PM
    Ms. Henderson-Stein is awesome! She edited my college essay and really calmed my nerves about applying!
  • Dumb Democrat= (View Email) on March 17, 2005 at 9:32 PM
    Where is the Career Center? When is it open?
  • Feza Kikaya (View Email) on March 20, 2005 at 9:36 AM
    Good article Varun! The Career Center is an amazing resource that every student should take advantage of...whatever you need, Ms. Williams and Ms. Stein can help you get it!
  • e-money. on March 20, 2005 at 6:14 PM
    I didn't even go into the Career Center until this year, but they're incredibly helpful and wonderful people. And overloaded with tons of work. But they somehow manage it. Yay career center!
  • blazer on March 21, 2005 at 11:09 AM
    the carrer center is really good and resouceful and mrs. williams is the best, i just walked into the door yesterday and she made me feel so comfortable about what i want to do in my future and hooking me up with scholarship information!!!!
  • Hieu C. Nguyen on March 22, 2005 at 8:19 AM
    the Bliar carear centar is 1 ov the wors places 2 find stuf dats y i nvr go dere

    day shuld improov da akademiks in dis scool

  • Anonymous on March 23, 2005 at 2:41 PM
    "You've seen the banana-colored pages towards the front of your planbook. You've doodled on them, folded them into creative designs or even flat-out ignored them. But what are those pages really for?"

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