Finding the Right Direction

Students make connections at KCPS Freshman College and Career Experience


Kansas City, December 7, 2016: Sarah Fataki is feeling encouraged.

Ms. Fataki is a ninth grader at East High School. She joined more than 500 other students from Kansas City Public Schools for the Freshman College and Career Experience Thursday, Dec. 1 at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.


img_7126In two large conference rooms on the second floor of the Student Union, young, excited high schoolers talked with representatives from 25 companies, colleges and universities from across the Kansas City region, including the Kansas City Fire Department, Burns & McDonnell, UMB, the University of Missouri and Truman State University.

Freshman Experience For Fataki, whose family moved to Kansas City several years ago after living as refugees in Uganda, it was a sneak peek at a bright future as she strives to achieve her dreams. She spoke at length with a Kansas City Police Department officer about how to pursue a career in law enforcement.

“I’m actually getting a lot more information than I expected and that’s really encouraging for us,” she said. “I feel like our school is showing us the right directions that we can take. It helps us not lose hope.”

The event was the result of a partnership between KCPS, UMKC and Junior Achievement of Greater Kansas City. The idea was developed initially as a way to help keep students in school and engaged in their education, according to KCPS Director of Guidance Counseling Lili Englebrick.

“We’re here to show them that these colleges and careers are a real possibility,” Ms. Englebrick said.

img_7147Organizers want freshmen to start thinking about and planning for their careers, according to Junior Achievement Senior Director of Education/Programs Beth Fritts. Students who start that process early can tailor their studies in high school, attend the right colleges and are more likely to achieve their goals.

“We want these freshmen to start with the end in mind. We want to give them a peek at what life has to offer after high school,” Ms. Fritts said. “Then they can begin to map out a path towards the milestones they need to reach to be able to have that life.”

Freshman Experience In many cases, students who made a good impression with corporate representatives at the event will be given a chance to take entry-level positions while in college that can lead to professional careers after they graduate. For instance, a student interested in finance could get a job as a teller with U.S. Bank, or someone who wants to be an engineer could work on summer projects for J.E. Dunn Construction.

According to Caitlin Mundschenk, a Campus Relations Coordinator for J.E. Dunn., companies have to be at events like the KCPS Freshman College and Career Experience in order to ensure that they have access to a high-quality pool of potential employees.

“This is the future of our workforce, our lifeblood,” Ms. Mundschenk said. “Being here helps us connect locally and build those relationships.”