Upward Bound grants extended to help students finish high school, plan for college

By Katie Johnson

Every year, over 1.2 million students in the United States drop out of high school, and about 14% of high school freshmen fail to graduate on time, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. In hopes of redirecting this trend, Education Service Center Region 12 implements three grants in Connally and La Vega, Waco, and Killeen ISDs. These three Upward Bound grants have been awarded a continuation, providing $297,600 per year per grant for the next five years to aid Central Texas high school students.

Upward Bound students in Waco

Funded by the U.S. Department of Education, Upward Bound is an innovative program aimed at closing the gap and increasing the academic achievement levels of first-generation and economically disadvantaged students to succeed in high school, post-secondary education, and beyond.

“One of the most gratifying elements of this program is to have our Upward Bound alumni come back and work with our current participants as an ESC Region 12 Intermittent employee,” says Tammy Horner, ESC Region 12 Upward Bound project director. “Their presence in working as tutors, instructors and chaperones, while they continue on their own post-secondary education path is an encouragement to our students as they see that college can become a reality.”

Upward Bound supports participants in their preparation for college entrance and offers opportunities to succeed in their precollege performance and ultimately in their higher education pursuits. Projects offer academic instruction in mathematics, laboratory sciences, composition, literature, and foreign languages.

Upward Bound students from Connally & La Vega high schools

ESC Region 12’s Upward Bound program constitutes three separate grants as each contributes to helping high school students in different cities. One grant serves students at Connally and La Vega high schools. The second grant supports Waco and University high schools. The last grant is geared toward students at Killeen and Pathways high schools in Killeen ISD, and Richard Milburn Academy, a Killeen charter school.

The Upward Bound programs at ESC Region 12, which began in the fall of 2012, assist up to 60 students each year, per grant. Students are selected through an application and interview process, where report cards, transcripts, and teacher recommendations are evaluated. Once accepted into the Upward Bound program, rising ninth through eleventh-grade students are tracked through high school and six years beyond graduation to ensure completion of post-secondary education.

Since parent involvement is one of the driving factors behind overall student success, the participants’ parents also receive support during their child’s high school career and college application process. This aid and involvement includes informational meetings, financial aid and scholarship information and counseling, college requirement counseling, and financial planning.

Kick-off celebrations for each Upward Bound program is Sept. 24. Upward Bound Waco will meet at ESC Region 12, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Upward Bound Killeen will meet at Killeen High School, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Upward Bound Connally and La Vega will meet at Connally High School, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. 

For more information on the Upward Bound program, please visit esc12.net/upwardbound.

Katie Johnson is graphic design & communications specialist with Education Service Center Region 12.

ESC 12 working to help smooth post-school transition for those with disabilities

By Jennifer Marshall-Higgins

The transition from high school to beyond can be challenging for any student. For students with disabilities this step can feel overwhelming without the proper support and resources.

Disabilities a range of challenges from dyslexia to language processing disorders to dysgraphia.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, about 33% of all students identify as having a disability that adversely affects their performance in the classroom. That’s more than 7 million students. Education Service Center Region 12 and partners will host a Transition Fair for students (grades 8-12) with disabilities 6-8 pm, Sept 20.

Without support, access to resources and guidance on advocating for oneself, it can be challenging to navigate a world that may feel inaccessible for students with a disability, be it a physical, intellectual, or learning disability. The Transition Fair’s theme is “Let your Light Shine” as it aims to bridge the gap between high school and life after school for students of all abilities. The goal is to ease the apprehension of students and their families.

Participants will learn about community resources to support their transition, career and college opportunities, training opportunities, options for independent living, guardianship and alternatives, and how to apply for certain benefits.

“Our goal is to connect students, families and school staff with service providers to facilitate success for students once they graduate from high school–something that will impact their quality of life and how they can contribute to society,” said Monica Johnson, education specialist for ESC Region 12.

The free event will take place from 6-8 p.m. on Sept. 20 at 2101 W Loop 340 in Waco. Participants are encouraged to pre-register at bit.ly/TransitionFair2022.

The event will include several partners, including Heart of Texas Behavioral Health Network, which provides accessible, caring and responsive support services to individuals and families coping with mental illness, intellectual and developmental disabilities, developmental delays, and emotional conflict. Additional partners include Texas Parent to Parent, Texas Workforce Commission, Communities in Schools, Heart of Central Texas Independent Living Center (HOCTIL), and Texas Able, all dedicated to the prosperity of Texas students with disabilities and their families.

Agencies on-site during the event are as follows:

  • ARC of McLennan County
  • Baylor Accommodations
  • BCBSTX, STAR Kids
  • Burgett Law Firm, PLLC Estate Planning Law Firm
  • Communities In Schools
  • Communities In Schools of the Heart of Texas – Workforce Program 
  • Focus Behavioral Associates
  • Heart of Texas Behavioral Health Network
  • HOCTIL
  • Oceans Behavioral Hospital
  • Sandy Hardy-Smith, Imagine Enterprises
  • Superior Health Plan
  • Texas Able
  • Texas Parent to Parent
  • Texas STAR Plus
  • Texas Workforce Solutions
  • Texas Workforce Solutions – Vocation Rehabilitation Services
  • United Health Care Dental Services
  • Waco Mayor’s Committee for People with Disabilities

Jennifer Marshall-Higgins is director of customer & marketing support with Education Service Center Region 12. ESC Region 12 helps schools save money and leverage resources into the classroom. One of 20 regional service centers statewide, ESC Region 12 offers training and expert assistance to educators and school personnel to increase student achievement. ESC Region 12 offers effective, economical programs and services through professional development, expert assistance, direct services and alternative educator certification. Based in Waco, ESC Region 12 serves 77 school districts, 10 charters and private/parochial schools in Bell, Bosque, Coryell, Falls, Freestone, Hamilton, Hill, Lampasas, Limestone, McLennan, Mills and Navarro counties.

STEAM Day

By Christine Holecek

The mission of the Heart of Texas P-20 Council is to assist with the collaboration of education, business, and community to maximize the utilization of resources, programs and services for all students while encouraging a culture of life-long learning. We envision that all students can reach their true potential as happy, healthy, productive and self-sufficient citizens.  One local event that helps with this mission is S.T.E.A.M. Day.

The City of Waco, along with ESC Region 12, is hosting its annual S.T.E.A.M. Day on October 11.  Geared towards middle and high school students in the Central Texas area, this event helps students explore the fields of science, technology, engineering, architecture, arts and mathematics (S.T.E.A.M.).  Participating students will be able to speak directly with professionals about career choices in various fields.  S.T.E.A.M. Day is a free, come-and-go exhibition for schools and at the Waco Convention Center. The attendance has continued to grow over the past several years.  Last year over 2,200 students from 40 schools registered for the event, along with 86 exhibitors from various career fields.  Our exhibitor roster included local manufacturing companies, higher education establishments, engineering and architecture firms, and also high school robotics teams.  This event is free to exhibitors as well.

This is an awesome event for students to get a hands-on opportunity to see future careers in action. This event has morphed over the years from “Engineering Day” to “STEM Day” and now “STEAM” Day.  This event is held annually in October to inspire students to pursue careers in the community in science, technology, engineering, architecture, art and mathematics. This event is hosted by the City of Waco Public Works Department. This year’s event will be held on Tuesday, October 11, 2017 at the Waco Convention Center from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.


This Act Locally Waco blog post was written by Christine Holecek. Christine is an Education Specialist at Education Service Center Region 12 in Waco. She has worked in the area of Adult Education and Career & Technical Education for the past 25 years. She earned an AAS degree from MCC, a BAAS and Master’s Degree from the University of North Texas and is currently enrolled in the Doctoral Program in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies at Tarleton State University.

P-20: Promoting College and Career Readiness in Central Texas

By Fred Hills

Preparing local students for successful journey through school and college to careers is critical to the well-being and growth of our community. Started 8 years ago, the HOT P-20 works to promote streamlined, transparent degree pathways for students to move quickly and successfully through their education and onto college and/or a career.  The Heart of Texas (HOT) P-20 brings together representatives from the independent school districts (ISD), institutions of higher education (IHE), Region 12 Education Service Center, industry and government across six counties: Bosque, Hill, Falls, Limestone, Freestone and McLennan to work towards this goal.  Among the higher education representatives are McLennan Community College, Texas State Technical College, and Hill County with representation from both Tarleton State University, Texas Tech through MCC’s University Center.

The HOT P-20 mission can best be summarized as follows:

  • Collaborating by building cross-community team to address education and career possibilities for all students.
  • Informing our diverse communities about ongoing initiatives, best practices and available resources.
  • Advocating for educational best practices with at the state and local levels.

Some of our ongoing projects include:

  • Academic Vertical Alignment Training and Renewal (AVATAR) program that brings together faculty from the high schools and post-secondary institutions who teach Math, English, College and Technical education, and STEM to discuss differences in instructional techniques and ways to better prepare students for college-level work while in high school.  AVATAR also include high school and college counselors to address ways to better advise students in preparation for their transfer to college and/or a career.
  • Building closer ties between education and industry under our Groundhog Job Shadowing initiative celebrated on February 2 each year promoting job shadowing, internships, externships, career fairs and industry visits.
  • Partnering to support local educational initiatives and programs such on Region 12 ESC’s Connect 3, Teacher’s Gone Tech, Girls in STEM, career fairs, etc.
  • Building collaborative agreements among secondary, post-secondary and industry to offer degree pathways and college preparation courses for students while still in high school.
  • Providing an annual forum on “State of Education in Central Texas” in the Spring to share ongoing educational initiatives and career preparation opportunities.  This year’s event is scheduled for April 20 from 11:30 to 1:30 PM at MCC’s conference center.  All are welcome.
  • Working with Prosper Waco and the Waco Chamber to inform them on ongoing educational initiatives and promote education to career programs.
  • Surveying the community for ways to better serve all partners in this effort.

HOT Regional P-20 operates as a voluntary organization.  For more information on the HOT P-20 and its programs, check out our webpage at http://www.hotp20.org


Dr. Fred Hills is the current president of the HOT P-20 and Dean of Arts, Science and Business at McLennan Community College.  He has worked and lived in the Waco community for over 20 years and has served on the HOT P20 for the last four years.

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email [email protected] for more information.

February is Career and Technology Month and Groundhog Job Shadowing Kick-off

(The Heart of Texas P-20 Council includes representatives from K-12 education, higher education and employers. They meet regularly to help coordinate efforts to launch our young people into productive lives as workers and citizens. This post is one in a monthly series of posts intended to share information about the work of this important group in our community. For more posts in this series, click here: P-20 education. – ABT)

By Christine Holecek

ESC Region 12 and the HOT P-20 Council celebrates February as Career and Technical Education Month (CTE), as well as, the kick -off of Groundhog Job Shadowing. Students and faculty in Region 12 will join others across the nation during the month of February to celebrate national CTE month. This year’s tagline is Celebrate Today, Own Tomorrow! CTE Month provides CTE programs across the country an opportunity to demonstrate how CTE makes students college and career ready and prepares them for high-wage, high-skill, and high-demand career fields. School districts are encouraged to promote CTE programs and give their students the opportunity to job shadow during the month of February. February 2nd is Groundhog Day and a perfect day to job shadow.

“The activities planned over the next month will illustrate the rigor and relevance CTE courses offer our students,” said Fred Hills, Chair of the HOT P-20 Council.  “By partnering with the business community, CTE programs are investing in students and providing them with the latest technology and skills that will prepare them to become successful employees and future leaders”

CTE is a major part of the solution to a myriad of national economic and workforce problems, such as high school dropout rates, a weakened economy, global competitiveness and massive layoffs. At a time when the opportunity for employment is so critical, CTE programs in every community are ensuring students are equipped with the skills to successfully enter the workforce.

Members of the Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce have expressed interest in hosting high school students in the workplace for shadowing experiences. (Click here for the list of members and contacts.) The HOT P-20 Council has provided materials for school districts and employers to utilize for Job Shadowing at http://www.hotp20.org/page2.

Please share your CTE program initiatives and job shadowing successes to [email protected].  


This Act Locally Waco blog post was written by Christine Holecek. Christine is an Education Specialist at Education Service Center Region 12 in Waco. She has worked in the area of Adult Education and Career & Technical Education for the past 25 years. She earned an AAS degree from MCC, a BAAS and Master’s Degree from the University of North Texas and is currently enrolled in the Doctoral Program in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies at Tarleton State University.

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email [email protected] for more information.

 

 

AVATAR in the Heart of Texas

(The Heart of Texas P-20 Council includes representatives from K-12 education, higher education and employers. They meet regularly to help coordinate efforts to launch our young people into productive lives as workers and citizens. This post is one in a monthly series of posts intended to share information about the work of this important group in our community. For more posts in this series, click here: P-20 education. — ABT)

By Christine Holecek

AVATAR is not just an icon or figure representing a person in a video game and it is not a blue hybrid alien from a movie. AVATAR in the Heart of Texas stands for “Academic Vertical Alignment Training and Renewal.” It is a joint project, now in its third year, organized by the Education Service Center Region 12 (ESC Region 12) and the Heart of Texas P20 Council to bring together local school districts and local colleges to collaborate on high school transition to college.

AVATAR logoYear one looked specifically at High School English Courses (AP and Dual Credit) and expectations for college English courses. Critical conversations were held on the alignment that needs to happen for students to be more successful in college. Great strides were made. For example, high school and college teachers worked together to develop a tool for all teachers to use to grade essays consistently and holistically.

Year two’s project added math to the equation. Representatives from both ELAR (English, Language Arts and Reading) and Math disciplines began discussing the College Preparatory course requirements introduced by House Bill 5 in 2012. These course offerings are now required by the legislature to help students be better prepared to enter college without remediation. High School and College ELAR and Math teachers worked with McLennan Community College (MCC) to develop a course that was made available the fall of 2014. School districts interested in using the college prep course can complete a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with MCC.

A College Prep Course symposium was held in September 2014 to introduce school districts to local college offerings. Representatives from McLennan Community College, Texas State Technical College, Hill College, Temple College, and Central Texas College provided an overview of their new College Prep Courses that provide course content in English/Language Arts and Mathematics. Each college representative answered specific questions related to course design and MOUs. This symposium offered a format that allowed participants to attend one or all of the college overviews.

Year three’s focus brought counselors into the fold. Their discussions about college transition will result in a “Frequently Asked Questions” document about what students need to know as they transition to college. The counselors are continuing their work together with critical conversations around college and career readiness, dual credit courses and college prep courses. They have been meeting once a month (February – May) to discuss trends and issues in college and career readiness. Counselors will also review and critique college and career readiness products: such as the Texas Online College and Career Readiness Resource Center.

Planning for year four has begun. Career and Technical Education (CTE) teachers will be asked to contribute expertise into high school endorsement pathways. Six year plans will be created in the areas of Business and Industry, Public Services, and Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM).

For more information about the AVATAR program, please contact Christine Holecek [email protected]


Christine HolecekThis Act Locally Waco blog post was written by Christine Holecek. Christine is an Education Specialist at Education Service Center Region 12 in Waco. She has worked in the area of Adult Education and Career & Technical Education for the past 25 years. She earned an AAS degree from MCC, a BAAS and Master’s Degree from the University of North Texas and is currently enrolled in the Doctoral Program in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies at Tarleton State University.

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email [email protected] for more information.