I met Roberto Noya at a Greater Austin Hispanic Chamber of Commerce event in May. The event theme was “The Importance of Leadership in Education.” After the keynote speaker (Alex Sanchez) spoke, organizers wrapped up the event and invited people to socialize. Noya and I had a great conversation and I found that he has tremendous passion for education, as well as some ideas on how to improve things in certain critical areas. This educational consultant shared some ideas for parents wishing to impart the expectation that their children will attend college. He offers advice on the when and how’s of instilling the college mind-set in children. After all, in on Gerber Insurance commercial this is the main dialogue touchstone of a group of parents with very small children.
Upon Kindergarten Graduation
One milestone that we all remember is kindergarten graduation. Noya stated that this is a time when children appreciate that they have achieved a goal. He added that they are now old enough to understand levels of education. “This would be a good time to begin praising the achievement as an early step towards a college degree, which can be presented as the ultimate goal of the child’s educational career.”
Noya said the parents, other family members and other influential adults should help reinforce this message as the child progresses through school.
Upon Entering Junior High (Middle School)
He said junior high is another critical juncture. He had suggestions on how to help steer children toward thinking forward to college.
“In junior high school, as the student is offered options for course subjects and levels, it is important to remind the child that while these choices present an opportunity to pursue personal preferences and interests (art and music, or technology and health, for example), the decision should be based as well on which courses will prepare the student best for college admission and success in college.”
Upon Entering High School
The consultant also stated that the senior year of high school is too late for a discussion about college requirements. He shared ideas on how to avoid having a child disappointed to discover that they are limited in the colleges they can attend because they didn’t take certain courses.
For example, he mentioned the foreign language requirement, and added that it is even more critical in today’s global marketplace.
Another example he offered is the chance to take advanced or honors courses. He said some students avoid them in order to keep a higher GPA. Later, some of them are sad to discover that the colleges they prefer look more favorably on students who take challenging courses. He indicated that in some cases, select schools assign more weight to the honors courses than to the GPA.
He explained what advice he’d offer a student entering high school. “My advice is to help youngsters understand that they are still very young and will likely stumble on new interests and passions as they grow older, so keeping options open in the best strategy. This typically means taking the most academic subject courses (in English, math, foreign language, science, and social studies) as possible for all four years of high school and at the highest levels they feel they can handle reasonably.”
He said that in some rare cases students may figure out that they can learn more by taking a lower level course in a particular subject with a specific teacher.
Two Cautionary Tales
I recall how one of my high school friends elected to take courses in certain subjects. When I asked her about it, she stated that that was the career field she wished to enter. I thought she was getting way too far ahead of herself by thinking of college while in 9th grade. I was wrong. She did indeed go to college and obtain the exact degree she mentioned all those years earlier. She worked in that career field for many years, and didn’t digress until the economy tanked in 2008. She joined a host of people who found themselves switching careers at that time.
I have an adult son. He was bright and gifted. I recalled having some conversations about college, but I never conveyed it as an expectation. After all, I was the the first to graduate from college in my family. I didn’t have the type of conversations that Noya mentioned during our interview. I was happy that my son was doing so well in school. When he was in high school, he even participated in Upward Bound. Upward Bound is a college preparatory program. He took the college tour with them, and seemed to have a very positive impression of what college life offered.
I assumed college, but I didn’t communicate that expectation. While my son is a law-abiding, honorable young man with a steady job; I realize that he could be doing better with a college degree. I am still proud of him, I just wonder if I couldn’t have done him more justice by imparting the expectation of college.