HS counselors strengthen connection to BTC

When some 60 area high school counselors gathered in The Commons at Blackhawk Technical College Tuesday morning, they did more than eat scrambled eggs, sausage and bacon while listening to BTC staff highlight what the school has to offer their students who are pondering their post-secondary education needs.

That was especially clear in the minutes before the program began as Barrett Bell, the BTC Director of Enrollment Services, joined Amy Kenyon of Milton High School, Tom Heiss of Janesville Parker and Ryan Rewey of Beloit Memorial and engaged in a lively discussion about what schools and students need from Blackhawk Technical College.

“The value of a meeting like this is twofold,’’ Bell said after that talk with the three counselors and just moments before he took the microphone to officially welcome the visitors to BTC.

“First, it is connecting and hearing firsthand the needs of all those potential students that the counselors work with.

“Second, there is the value of selling Blackhawk Technical College as a conduit between high school and real world employment. We are the place that can help the student connect the dots between those two places.’’

The counselors were invited to strengthen the connection between Blackhawk and the education communities of Rock and Green counties.

The bond is strong. These secondary educators have seen students from their schools turn to Blackhawk in a variety of programs that help lead the students into good paying jobs in manufacturing, health care and information technology that serve both the personal needs of the students and the economic needs of the local business community.

Now, as the cost of a four-year college education soars, these counselors see a school like Blackhawk as a comparatively modest investment with a more immediate reward for expense incurred.

“Cost is a huge factor,’’ said Kenyon, who is the Career and Technical Education Coordinator at Milton. “A place like this allows a student to start early while they are in high school. And my experience is that they get very high quality, almost one-on-one instruction in a lot of fields.’’

Rewey, the Career and Technical Education Coordinator at Beloit Memorial, said it was important that high school advisers attend events such as this so they can open multiple doors for their students.

“We need to do a better job of pushing kids into all routes, not just the four-year route,’’ he said.

It is not only the high school student who needs to be educated on the benefits of a technical school education, Heiss added.

“Parents have a vested interest in this, too,’’ said Heiss, a technical education teacher and Youth Apprenticeship Coordinator at Parker.

“Parents often have this view of what their child should do, and that usually involves going to a four-year school like the University of Wisconsin. But only so many students are going to get into schools like that. We need to warm parents up to the opportunities that exist in a place like Blackhawk.’’

The counselors heard from BTC President Tom Eckert and Vice President of Student Services Ed Robinson before getting a more detailed view of the variety of programs and options that exist for high school students, not only after high school graduation but while they are attending high school.

Following a question and answer session, during which subjects such as the application process and class schedules were covered, attendees were free to review the Career Cruising program developed by Inspire Rock County (http://www.inspirerockcounty.org/.

Career Cruising is an effort to connect business with local students and help those students learn more about career opportunities and future employment needs.

Courtney Bunderson is the graduation coach at Rock River Charter School, a position that puts her in regular contact with students from financially distressed families, including students who are homeless.

“I find the people at Blackhawk very supportive of their students and very good to work with,’’ she said. “I don’t try to sell Blackhawk to students, but I make sure to give them that option and try to make them see it as an option.

“I do everything I can to do that.’’