“Get Focused…Stay Focused!,” a program to get high school freshmen thinking about college and their careers, held a two-day conference last week at Santa Barbara City College (SBCC). The initiative, which originated at SBCC through its Dual Enrollment program, has been picked up by thousands of schools nationwide. Scores of students at Santa Barbara and Carpinteria high schools currently use the program.
The idea behind the initiative, which is the brainchild of former SBCC Dean of Economic Development Diane Hollems, is to encourage students to think ahead so they don’t get stuck bouncing from course to course without an end goal in sight. The beauty of the program, Hollems said, is that it targets every student equally. Students create a plan during 9th grade and complete follow-up modules during grades 10, 11, and 12. Plus, students receive three units of college credit upon completion.
Livening up the conference on Friday was volleyball pro and Olympic gold medalist Dain Blanton, who gave a motivational speech about his journey to success on the court and in the classroom. Blanton told the crowd he haphazardly decided to study business at Pepperdine University because it sounded cool. “Three weeks in, I was like, ‘This isn’t for me,’” he said. Eventually he switched to public relations, which he figured would give him good transferable skills. After wrapping up his professional volleyball career, Blanton is now a sportscaster and motivational speaker.
Similarly, SBCC president Lori Gaskin said she changed her major five times as an undergrad at UCLA. Gaskin first enrolled in drama because she had a starring role in a high school play. Among a group of “highly skilled actors,” Gaskin quickly realized she needed to switch majors. It wasn’t until after she jumped from communications, public health administration, and sociology that she took a lab class in earth sciences and fell in love with the field.
“Had I been more self-aware, it would have made the journey less painful,” Gaskin said. “[Get Focused…Stay Focused!] provides the opportunity in ninth grade to understand and an interesting goal and to map out what it takes to get there, and to refine those goals,” she said. “In high school, it’s so beautiful to be able to pursue different pathways.”
UCSB’s Evaluation Center will complete a longitudinal research study of the program’s impact on area students; it is expected to be available in September.