College and Career Exploration and Random Acts of Kindness

A Spotlight on Eighth Grade College and Career Readiness Class at GFW Middle School

“Good morning future billionaires, I believe in you!”

This may seem like a strange way to start a class, but it’s exactly how eighth graders in Staci Wood’s College and Career Readiness class start their day. Ms. Wood changes up the greeting based on the topic for the day. If they are learning about careers in law enforcement it may be “good morning future police officers” and students started requesting different things to be called, with “future billionaires” being an obvious choice. 

The GFW Middle School class, takes place in the second semester and is designed to give eighth graders the opportunity to learn about career options, college preparation, and what awaits them at GFW High School. Students are able to learn a lot and also get to be encouraged and supported ahead of their transition into high school. 

“Some students moaned and groaned a bit at first as they didn’t really see the importance of a high school diploma or needing to know what options are out there,” said Wood. “Guest speakers from the military and local business community emphasized the importance of a high school diploma and students really started diving into learning about different career paths and college or trade school options.”

Students learned about what is offered in colleges and what types of higher education offerings are out there, different careers, and developed important skills like creating a resume and interviewing for jobs. They also got extra help during high school registration to look into the course offerings and being able to work towards a goal of exploring different career pathways. They heard from guest speakers on different topics and even got to take a field trip to Blue Sun Soda Shop in Spring Lake Park.

“I wish I had a class like this in school,” said Wood. “They are getting a head start on learning about what comes next in high school and beyond and getting a solid understanding of the importance of staying on track and learning how to get support when they need it. Most students didn't know the difference between a college major or minor, but they now have a really solid understanding of what’s out there.”

In the spirit of going beyond just the academic or career side of things, an initiative that the kids took on this year was finding ways to complete a total of 100 random acts of kindness as a class. It was started as a way to encourage students to help out in little ways and it quickly became such a habit that they didn’t always realize they were doing it. 

“I wanted students to remember that at the end of the day, nothing really matters except if you were kind,” said Wood. “There was a younger student who dropped all of their papers in the hallway, and they just went everywhere. I watched as several of the eighth graders started heading towards the student to help. It was so cool to see!”

Students shared that they often didn’t realize they were doing an act of kindness but saw how these little things could really impact and improve someone else’s day. Whether it was holding the door for someone or joining a new student for lunch, each day another heart would get added to the chart that tracked the kind acts.

“The acts of kindness I have done are the littlest things like helping out a friend when they were going through something, helping a teacher when they had a lot of work they needed to get done, and helping a friend pick up papers” said Melody Exum. “A lot of these are little things but they still mean so much to me.”

“I helped a classmate carry another classmate's belongings for him and I also helped pick up trash around the school,” said Kailynn Hubred. “It felt good and like I accomplished something great!” 

While they may have reached their goal of 100 acts of kindness, they show no signs of slowing down. 

“It felt good to help out everyday and it also makes my day better to see how positively it affects the person we helped,” said Lara Stegeman. “It feels amazing to do these acts of kindness because it shows how one little act can change into a big thing and helps bring more kindness to the world, which we could use,” added Ellison Fitzpatrick. 

There is a lot of excitement to keep this going next year and provide an important resource for eighth graders. The students have done so well and are truly showing what it means to be a future world class leader. They even wrote letters to welcome new fifth graders to the middle school for next year. The letters contained tips, advice and offers for support if they needed help transitioning to a new school. It’s safe to say the students are ready for what comes next!