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Future Ready: Wylie ISD Prepares Students for all Post-Secondary Opportunities

9/1/2022

Unless you are new to Wylie, you are quite familiar with how to earn a quick buck when you see Wylie ISD Superintendent Dr. David Vinson. Every day, the first kid to flash him his alma mater Texas Tech’s “guns up” hand signal earns a dollar.

Student and superintendent.

The first student that signals Texas Tech’s “guns up” to Dr. Vinson each day receives a dollar from the superintendent.

This is just one way that Wylie ISD encourages students to think about life after high school. The district prides itself on getting students “Future Ready,” whether they choose to pursue a career right out of high school, join the military or enroll in a college, university or trade school.

Teachers, current students and alumni share the many different paths they’ve taken after high school graduation to get to where they are today.

Think College Thursday

Think College Thursday is a weekly reminder to students about what’s to come in their educational journey. Students are encouraged to wear their favorite college, university or military T-shirts on Thursdays. With about 36 Thursdays throughout the year, that is a lot of conversations about colleges taking place.

“Think College Thursday originated from the district’s desire to encourage more of our students to attend college after completing high school,” Wylie High School Counselor Terri Christensen said. “It is a fun way to show that there are many university options.”

Boy wears college tee shirt.

Every Thursday, Wylie ISD students and staff are encouraged to wear t-shirts from their favorite college, university or military branch, prompting conversations about post-secondary options. 

Mrs. Christensen says that she sees a variety of universities represented by students wearing college shirts on Think College Thursdays.

“Students ask each other and teachers, administrators and counselors about the colleges represented by the shirts they are wearing, creating teachable moments,” Mrs. Christensen said.

College Night

Every year, the district hosts College Night at one of the high schools. Students and their families are invited to visit with recruiters from around the state and the country to learn more about what their institution has to offer. The Wylie ISD College Night is Sept. 13, 2022 from 6-8 p.m. at Wylie East High School this year. 

Boy learns about college.

Students and their families can visit with representatives from over 60 different colleges at College Night.

A random flyer her dad picked up when she attended College Night back in high school determined this Draper Intermediate science teacher’s future. 

“Wylie East was having a college fair and my family went to help my older brother decide on what school he wanted to go to,” Mrs. Jessica Blakeley said. “My dad picked up a flyer for Texas A&M University at Corpus Christi and told me I should go.”

A year later, she still had that flyer and decided to submit her application. Blakeley moved eight hours away to study environmental science at the ‘Island University.’ 

“I got to do so many labs on geology, biology, physical sciences, atmospheric science, oceanography and more,” Mrs. Blakeley said. “I also got to do behavioral research on Sandbar sharks at the Texas State Aquarium. I am so happy I get to teach science here in Wylie ISD and bring all of my past experiences to my students.”

"College Night is truly beneficial so students can become aware and knowledgeable in the college admissions process," Wylie High School Counselor Donathan Melton said. "In addition, students can ask questions and find out more about academic program offerings with the attending colleges. Overall, it is a good opportunity to come out and find the steps needed to transition in life from high school to college."  

Crowd in school.

Every September, Wylie ISD hosts a College Night. Over 60 colleges and universities send representatives out to visit with students and their families.

College Week

Each spring, the high schools celebrate College Week with a variety of activities. From door decorating contests to college trivia on the announcements, college is highlighted in a different way each day of the College Week. College recruiters even come up to the high schools to visit with students during lunches. From scholarships to grants to financial aid, how to pay for college is at the top of every student’s list.

Door decorated.

A different college-related activity takes place each day of the week during College Week in the spring to promote higher education.

Mr. David Lanman, career and technology teacher at Wylie East High School, managed to graduate with absolutely no college debt. He spent 10 years earning his undergraduate degree while he worked full time, allowing him to graduate with no student debt. 

Teachers stands by wall.

Law enforcement teacher Mr. David Lanman stands in front of his wall of sheriffs' badges. He is collecting one from every county in the state.

“I wanted to be the first in my family EVER to earn a college degree, but we had no money and my family made too much for loans,” Mr. Lanman said. “I was on my own. Fortunately, I only needed a high school degree to start work in my career in law enforcement. I wanted to advance so I needed to have a college degree, but I did it more for myself. I was able to walk across the stage without any student loans because I was working in my career field with the start I received in my high school CTE criminal justice classes.”

This year, College Week is Feb. 27-March 3, 2023.

Trade Schools and Career Pathways

High school students take elective courses that align with a career pathway, which can earn them an endorsement upon completing four years in that field of study. The district has 19 different career pathway options in just the Career and Technology Education department alone, many of which point students toward trade schools. 

Choosing electives that align with a particular field of study allows students to sample a specific industry. From nursing to welding, students can even earn certifications and land internships prior to graduating from high school.

Boy welds.

Elective courses, such as welding, give students a taste of a particular career. These CTE courses open students’ eyes to what trade schools have to offer.

Wylie ISD’s creation of Career Experiences within each endorsement area allows students to explore their interests and strengths. These pathways bring relevance and purpose to school, connecting both a personal plan and goal. 

Boys build robot.

Students build projects in career path courses. Students build a remote-controlled robot in the robotics and engineering class.

High school students got a taste of different industries last spring with Wylie ISD’s inaugural Build Your Future Career Day. Wylie East and Wylie High juniors and seniors in upper-level Career and Technical Education courses visited with employees from local companies to learn about different opportunities available in their field of study.

Man teaches students.

Build your future career day brought employees from various local businesses out to visit with students about career opportunities in our own community.

Dual Credit Classes

In partnership with Wylie ISD, Collin College offers students the opportunity to earn 30 college credits or more at Wylie East High School and Wylie High School. Without leaving the high school setting, enrolling in dual credit classes allows students to receive high school and college credit at the same time. For example, students can take English at a college level and receive both high school and college credit.

Wylie East senior Lane Duncan took two dual credit courses last year and is currently enrolled in three more. By the time he graduates high school, he will have 15 college hours completed.

“I decided to take dual credit classes to get a head start in college, and I quite enjoy the freedom that comes with taking a college-style course,” Duncan said.

Pen sits on desk.

Wylie ISD offers dual credit courses where students earn both high school and college credit.

The dual credit program gives high school students a taste of college life where they can experience the rigor and self-direction needed to succeed at the collegiate level, all while still a high school student. 

Aaron D. Hinojosa Jr. M.Ed. is the college and career counselor from Collin College. His role is to assist students through the college application process and navigate career opportunities.

"I also assist dual credit students with the Collin College registration process," Mr. Hinojosa said. "I am located at Wylie High School on Mondays, Wednesdays and every other Friday and at Wylie East High School on Tuesdays, Thursdays and every other Friday during the academic school year. I’m here to help."

Parents and students may contact Mr. Hinojosa at ahinojosa@collin.edu.

Wylie High School junior Sailor Snell is currently taking three dual credit classes and took two last year. She chose the dual credit path to prepare for college where she will study nursing.

“I think it’s a great opportunity to get ahead in college hours and credits so you have the choice to graduate early if that’s something you are interested in,” Snell said.

Perhaps the biggest benefit in enrolling in dual credit courses is the savings. Dual credit courses through Collin College are much lower than most major colleges and universities, not to mention the money students save on room and board by shaving a semester or two off of their college experience. Taking dual credit classes also gets students closer to their college graduation date. 

For more information on the Collin College dual credit program, visit https://www.collin.edu/express/dualcredit/index.html

Military

It’s no secret that students can preview military life with the award-winning Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps programs at both high schools. Specializing in the Air Force, students work out, train, and even suit up as cadets enrolled in the military. The AFJROTC program takes students on various field trips to learn what all the military has to offer. They even stay overnight aboard the USS Lexington aircraft carrier in Corpus Christi. 

Cadets hold flags.

AFJROTC cadets from both high schools host the annual Veteran’s Day Ceremony each November. The mission of AFJROTC is to develop citizens of character dedicated to serving their nation and community.

Various military recruiters visit the high school campuses during lunches quite frequently. Students can have one-on-one conversations with actual men and women in the armed forces. They learn that the military can help them pay for college. They often go head-to-head in a little push-up and pull-up challenge too.

The district employs many veterans who bring their experience and militant knowledge to the classroom.

Wylie High School’s AFJROTC Instructor Lt. Col. Darren James attended five different colleges and universities where he earned two associate degrees, a bachelor's degree and three masters' degrees, all while serving and completing a successful 27.5 year career in the United States Air Force.

“The military chose me as I ran out of money for college after my first associates degree,” Lt. Col. James said. “The Air Force helped me pay for all of my college degrees. I chose the degrees I earned based on the interests I had and the career path the Air Force trained me for.”

Dean of Students at McMillan Junior High, Mr. Levi Turner, credits the military for paying his way through college.

“I went to LSU in 2005, but left after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita,” Mr. Turner said.

He joined the Air Force a year and a half later. 

“I enjoyed serving and left the Air Force in 2014,” Mr. Turner said. “I earned my Music Business Bachelor’s of Science from Full Sail University in Florida and decided to become an educator. I wouldn't change a thing about the pathway that I took to get to where I am.”

The military also helped Shakela Mendenhall in Wylie ISD Transportation find her path in life. She was in the United States Navy for 11 years. The Montgomery GI Bill paid for her Associate Degree from Collin College and is covering the cost for her to get her BA at Western Governor’s University.

“When I graduated high school, I knew my mother could not afford to send me to college. That’s when I decided to join the Navy,” Mrs. Mendenhall said. “When it was time to leave, I was overweight and could not go. I came back home and worked at Hudson Foods. I could not see myself working there for the rest of my life, so I got in shape so I could join the military.”

Future Ready

The TEA accountability distinction Wylie ISD recently received was for Post-Secondary Readiness. This TEA distinction is confirmation that this district prepares its graduates for success whether it’s in higher education, a career or the military. 

No matter which path a student chooses, Wylie ISD wants to ensure that every student leaves the district with the skills needed to be successful.

Boy graduates.

TEA recently awarded Wylie ISD an accountability distinction for Post-Secondary Readiness. Wylie ISD wants all students to be Future Ready by the time they graduate.