Exploring the Paths to Success in High School and Beyond

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Melissa Rayworth contributed this guest post on behalf of Learning Heroes.

No matter what your child’s elementary school experience was like, many parents find the transition from middle school to high school nerve-wracking. Inga Cotton, executive director of San Antonio Charter Moms, recently reflected on just how scary this milestone can feel with Khalid Zakaria, academic counselor at Frank L. Madla Early College High School.

“I have an 8th grader,” she said, “so high school is starting to be real.”

“Likewise!” said Zakaria. “I have an 8th-grade son, too!”

But Zakaria reassures parents and students that the path doesn’t have to feel daunting.

“You are going to hit speed bumps along the way,” he tells students, and it’s important to ask for help. The same wisdom works for parents: You can get support from local and national sources to help navigate this important transition.

During an upcoming Charter Moms Chats interview, Howard Winchester III, communications manager at Learning Heroes, will join Zakaria and Cotton to discuss Learning Heroes’ new Paths to Success resources and the many ways parents can support their children’s journey to high school and beyond. Join the conversation online on April 8, 2021 at 4:00 PM Central live on Facebook and YouTube.

Paths to Success Tips

Among the resources they’ll share are these five Paths to Success tips:

Know the milestones: Know whether your child is reaching academic milestones by talking with teachers and your teen’s school counselor. You can also use Learning Heroes’ Readiness Check, a free (bilingual English/Spanish) online tool that helps parents of K–8 students get a clear sense of their child’s grade-level readiness and connects families to videos, activities, and resources for skill-building at home. Giving parents this extra “gut check” is especially important this year when many parents have expressed concern or confusion about where their child actually stands on the grade-level skills needed for success next year.

Nurture life skills: Help your child with skills like organization and managing stress. These social-emotional skills will help teens succeed in their school career and into the future. Zakaria says, “Our teens and tweens have wings but they are still learning to fly.” For parents, that might mean modeling how to plan ahead using a family calendar or asking your child their plan of attack on an assignment and talking it through together.

Reflect on interests: Reflect with your child on their strengths, passions and the kinds of jobs they imagine themselves doing one day. As middle school students begin to form goals, Zakaria says, “we reverse-engineer what needs to happen” by charting a plan that works backward to where the child is now. It’s fine if a teenager’s plan changes more than once, he says, even within a single semester. In fact, it probably will.

Consider class choices: With a tentative goal in mind, talk to your child about choosing high school classes that can help them prepare for and learn more about potential careers. It’s not uncommon nowadays for high school students to begin earning college credit, so connect with your child’s teachers or school counselor to learn more about options.

Plan ahead: As their plans come into focus, begin planning ahead on another topic that keeps parents up at night—the potential costs of paying for future education. Exploring financial aid options and learning in advance about how FAFSA works can reduce both stress and costs.

Helping Middle School and High School Students to Succeed

In San Antonio, the Mexican American Unity Council (MAUC) provides the Paths to Success tips for local families and works with parent liaisons at schools to share these resources.

These tips can help, Zakaria says, and the good news is: Success is not a destination—it’s a journey with multiple paths. Whether that path leads to a four-year college or a technical program, the same is true for all—a strong education is the foundation to a fulfilling career.

And exploring and changing your mind along the way isn’t a problem. It’s actually a valuable part of the process: “Sometimes,” he says, “finding out what you don’t like is just as valuable as what you like.”

Learn More About Paths to Success on Charter Moms Chats

Watch Khalid Zakaria, Academic Counselor at Frank L. Madla Early College High School, and Howard Winchester III, communications manager at Learning Heroes, talk with Inga Cotton about the role of parents in supporting their children’s transition from middle school to high school and share about Paths to Success on April 8, 2021 at 4:00 PM Central live on Facebook and YouTube.

Khalid Zakaria is the Academic Counselor at Frank L. Madla Early College High School. He is a graduate of East Central High School here in San Antonio, TX.  Upon his graduation from East Central, Mr. Zakaria went to Morehouse College in Atlanta, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Early Childhood Development/Education.  Mr. Zakaria spent seven years teaching at the elementary level, before transitioning to the middle school level in 2012 at New Frontiers Middle School. While at New Frontiers, Mr. Zakaria served as an 8th grade math teacher.  In May of 2013, Mr. Zakaria graduated from Texas A&M University—San Antonio, where he earned his Master of Arts in Counseling.  Mr. Zakaria also completed his Education Administration Certificate at Texas A&M University—San Antonio. He is now working toward his Ph.D. in Leadership Studies.

Howard Winchester III is the Communications Manager at Learning Heroes. He has a very intricate understanding and passion for social and digital media and continues to use his knowledge of branding and marketing to help provide parents with creative resources to help empower their children and their families.

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