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Ready to Graduate - Indiana 4-H: A Partner in Public Education

Diana Dickerson, a veteran family and consumer sciences teacher at Mooresville High School, has long observed that even some of her academically sound students lacked “soft skills” to land and keep a job.

The state of Indiana agreed, replacing standardized testing at the high school level with Graduation Pathways. It requires students to have employability documentation in addition to traditional credits, explains Christen Owens, Mooresville’s assistant principal in charge of curriculum. Many acquire these skills — communication, professionalism and punctuality, for example — through sports or a job as verified by their coach or employer.]

“Diana’s kids didn’t have something like that in or outside of high school, so there was a gap,” Owens says. “The Purdue Extension materials really spoke to those exact skills.”

Starting in 2021, Dickerson used her fifth-period prep time and Purdue Extension’s Work Ready curriculum as the basis for a six-week course called Pioneer Pathways. Work Ready teaches skills necessary to increase the number of qualified applicants for U.S. job openings.

In the past two academic years, 26 Mooresville seniors who likely would not have graduated received their diplomas. “It was definitely beneficial for those students,” Owens says.

Extension educators statewide adapt the curriculum for both high school and adult audiences. Dickerson
chose topics that best served her seniors, including money management and employment basics.

"This may sound minimal or obvious, but a lot of the kids don’t understand professionalism, even dressing for an interview — that you can’t wear things you wear in the [school] hallways,” she says.

Dickerson also covered social media etiquette and how an individual’s virtual presence can affect their real-life reputation.

“That one is an eye-opener,” she says. “They needed to learn teamwork skills,” she adds. “Without a job or club, a lot of these kids are a little shy and need to be able to work with others. Or they lack ability or initiative to go out and find a job when there are jobs available.”

Partnering with public high schools, Purdue Extension’s Work Ready curriculum can help Indiana students graduate on time and be better prepared for their next steps in employment, enlistment or education. “This is relevant and immediately usable information,” Dickerson says. “This is what they’re hungry for.”


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