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Union and Jenks seniors prepare for careers, college and adult life at OSU-Tulsa

Jenks students fill Main Hall for lunch between conference sessions.

Tulsa-area high school students have a better understanding of life after graduation after a full-day conference experience at OSU-Tulsa. The campus hosted more than 1,100 seniors from Union at the end of October and more than 800 from Jenks the following week to give students access to professionals from schools and organizations across Oklahoma. Sessions at Union’s “Beyond U” and Jenks’ “Prep You” senior conferences covered everything from trade skills to finances to preparing graduating seniors for variety of careers and educations, as well as fundamental life skills.

“It’s aimed at every student,” OSU-Tulsa Academic Counselor and Pre-Collegiate Coordinator Elisa LeSieur said. “These conferences give hundreds of high school seniors access to all kinds of resources to make informed decisions about their futures.”

Officials from Union and Jenks coordinated with OSU-Tulsa months in advance to plan sessions that covered topics they needed to succeed after high school. According to organizers, the dozens of sessions featuring experts from OSU-Tulsa, other area institutions, organizations and businesses did just that. “We received a lot of feedback on how attentive and informed the students were,” LeSieur said.

Regardless of seniors’ plans after graduating high school, OSU-Tulsa provided resources to help them get there. “We want to give back. We’re not just focused on our campus – but Tulsa as a community,” LeSieur said.

A personalized experience

A construction, architecture and engineering session for Jenks students featured a panel of local professionals who worked on multiple construction and renovation projects of Jenks Public Schools buildings. “The high school used to flood pretty significantly,” one presenter said. “But you guys haven’t had to experience that.” Organizers agree: when students can easily identify how the lessons taught in conferences like this affect their lives, it sticks with them.

“We have heard so many students say things like, ‘I had never really thought about doing such-and-such, but a speaker at OSU-Tulsa talked about it and it really got me thinking,’” Union High School’s College and Career Advisor Emily Ashley said. “It’s been so rewarding to hear them talk about what stuck with them from the event, and how it is helping to shape their plans moving forward.”

Union senior Yvonne went into the conference knowing she was interested in a career in medicine and used her experience to learn more about the field. “It helps to know how much it costs. Tuition and all that,” Yvonne said before she headed into a session titled “Destination: Medical School.” She and her friends said they were thankful to learn about resources available to lower the cost of higher education.

Sessions like “College 101: Becoming Successful from Day One,” “FAFSA: Show Me the Money” and “First Generation College Students: Paving the Way For The Future” were designed to help seniors already on the track to college; while others like “Starting Your Own Business,” “Careers in Energy” and “Arts in the Digital Age” focused on students who already had a good idea of what they want to do for a living. Some sessions focused on giving students the tools they need to be more successful adults, like “Leading for Global Impact,” “Finding Your Purpose in Life” and “PAYDAY: Learn How To Manage Your $$$.”

“The sheer number of students we serve makes it difficult to do everything we want to do with and for them as far as college and career planning,” Ashley said. “An event like this offers such a wide variety of information to allow students to get what they need.”

A large-scale step to prepare for the future

For schools in and around Tulsa, this style of off-site, large-scale conference is a major new step in investing in the future of high school graduates. “We have never done an event like this. I think the size of our senior class – over 1,100 – makes something like this seem daunting,” Ashley said. “But we had the right team of people to make it happen. I don’t think we could have done this without OSU-Tulsa’s logistical help, enthusiastic support and willingness to pull together staff to lend their expertise.”

The conferences don’t just help build relationships with students.

“For our school it is so beneficial to be able to help foster healthy relationships with students and business and community members,” Jenks Career Counselor Kimberly Catterson said. “We want our students to stay in Jenks and the greater Tulsa area, and we’re excited to give them an opportunity to learn about careers and education near them.”

According to Catterson, schools are happy to utilize OSU-Tulsa for access to a wealth of resources, space to showcase them and the power to serve local school districts. “Students learned these lessons from someone other than their mom, dad or their teachers,” she said. “I think that is something that we want to exist in school but don’t always have.”

For more information about pre-collegiate conferences at OSU-Tulsa, contact Elisa LeSieur, academic counselor and pre-collegiate coordinator, at elisa.lesieur@okstate.edu or 918-594-8482.

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Media Contact: Jamie Edford | 918-594-8024 | jamie.m.edford@okstate.edu