Giving High School Students a Boost into the Future


Local high schools help students prepare for college, but their resources are limited. On many campuses, counselors must monitor hundreds of students, giving them little time for one-on-one conversations about academic life after 12th grade.

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 That’s where Solutions: Exploring Success Post-High School comes in. The San Diego non-profit is devoted to giving students the information and encouragement they need to make informed decisions about their futures.

“We level the playing field,” says Carol Lazier, president and co-founder. “We make high-quality college and career information accessible and available to San Diego high school students in a friendly and engaging way.”

Business and Youth (BAY) Annual Luncheon and Expo. Enthusiastic professionals share their career paths.


Here are five ways that Solutions gives students a boost:

1. Students connect the dots

Through events like the annual Business and Youth (BAY) Luncheon and Expo, Solutions connects local representatives from various professions and businesses to San Diego County’s 11th- and 12th-grade students.

During the event, students dine with attendees and take advantage of the opportunity to engage with professionals in a variety of industries. “If you can connect a student with something that may be of interest to them as far as a career, they may start digging deeper to see how they get there,” says program director Cynthia Wilson. “This helps a student realize the connection between his or her strengths and classroom academics and the real world, helping them to understand what they need to do to get where they want to go.”

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Solutions also invites industry professionals to participate in Speaker Series career night panels. All families with students in grades 9-12 can attend the events, which are held three nights each spring. Each event highlights a different career industry. This year Solutions will feature medical, engineering and computers, and business careers.

Last year, an attorney moderated an event devoted to medical careers. “By the end of the night, a high school student discovered that medicine wasn’t for her, but law was. She spent the time chatting with our moderator, discovering a new interest and subsequently followed up with a job shadow,” Wilson says. “This is an example of how these events can help students decide what they want to do or what they don’t want to do, which is just as valuable.”

SDG&E is a major sponsor of the Business and Youth (BAY) Luncheon and Expo and has supported Solutions through the Inspiring Future Leaders grant. Solutions’ last two BAY Luncheon and Expos impacted over 200 San Diego County high school students.

2. Colleges reach out to students directly

Solutions hosts college showcases twice yearly, inviting admissions counselors from all across the U.S. to share information. Almost 200 colleges and universities have met with students at the events.

“Students benefit by seeing the face of the college they’re applying to since that makes it real to them,” executive director Roadman says. “We only host the colleges that will send admissions officials who make decisions. Students have a chance to talk to an admissions counselor, assistant dean of admissions, or dean of admissions and that provides them with primary source information about the institution. They now have a face and a name and Solutions encourages students to continue communication.” Thanks to SDG&E’s generosity, Solutions hosted our highly successful fall college showcase at the Energy Innovation Center, giving nearly 400 attendees an opportunity to connect face and name with over 55 colleges from around the nation.

3. Experts assist with navigation

“When my kids were applying for college, I realized the process was much more complicated than when I went to college,” co-founder Lazier says. To make things more challenging, “the cost of attending college is daunting,” she says.

Wealthier parents can hire advisers to help their kids navigate the maze, but not everyone has that option. The founders of Solutions “wanted to attack that inequity by offering accessible information and tools to everyone,” Lazier says.

To help families with in-depth and structured college planning and college application assistance, Solutions offers the Scholar program. For an annual fee of $300, waived for those with financial need, Solutions offers a series of group sessions with ongoing support via a weekly newsletter, as well as phone, email and individual meetings when necessary.

The Scholar program focuses on making “best matches” that fit the needs of students and families. Although it might not seem likely, the best choice may not be nearby and might be a private university as opposed to a public university. “There are so many school options outside of California which may be more affordable and a better fit for students,” Lazier says, especially when academic performance can lead to merit-based scholarships.

Indeed, 98 of 2015’s Solutions Scholars earned a whopping $21.5 million in four-year merit scholarships.

4. Parents stay involved in the process

Students and parents/guardians are invited to all Scholar events because kids do best when they’re supported by a team. All events are held on weekends and weekday nights so families can participate.

The possibilities are often well beyond what parents or students can imagine. For example, a student may have a 2.2 GPA, and his or her parents may feel like a four-year college is unlikely, Wilson says. In reality, “there are so many colleges that would want your student, that would value them. Students and families walk away excited about the possibilities,” she says. “It’s exciting when you see a young kid smile when they realize that they have options. They walk away feeling that they do have value.”

5. The future is flexible

Not every student is ready for college immediately after high school, and Solutions recognizes that fact. “You can choose to decide that you’re not ready,” Roadman says. “The point is to be able to explore and have options. We give them permission to explore and the tools to make informed decisions. ”

Solutions is looking for energetic and interested career professionals who can serve as career contacts for the Speaker Series events. Are you available to introduce students to your profession? Contact Solutions at 858-750-5729, solutions@exploresolutions.org and www.exploresolutions.org.

Corporations and organizations, meanwhile, can donate to support the annual BAY luncheon and expo. Families can also contact Solutions to learn about its programs and events.

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