Sanober, a SLPHS student, holding a U of M packet and smiling outside

Sanober Hindustani, a senior at Spring Lake Park High School, has known since she was 12 that she wanted to be a doctor. It was during that time she broke a disc in her spine, sending her on a long journey of doctor and physical therapy appointments. That experience is leading her to an interest in a career as an orthopedic surgeon.

“Although it was a rough time in my life, that experience did help me begin to understand my interest in the medical field and shape what kind of classes I took throughout high school and the colleges I looked into,” says Sanober.

Like many seniors right now, Sanober is in the process of applying to colleges for next fall. She just took the ACT and is waiting for the results before she submits her application to the University of Minnesota.

It’s an unusual fall to be a junior or senior considering college. In a normal year, college fairs, tours and school-sponsored career, college and military exploration events would be happening all the time. This year, they are happening virtually. This brings a new, and at times challenging, dynamic to students and their families determining what comes next.

Despite the unusual year, Spring Lake Park High School continues to provide a wide range of opportunities through classes and events for students and families to explore and prepare for career and college after high school.

Preparing students early

For many students, career explorations starts long before they enter high school.

Younger students start developing a Learner Profile and Personal Learner Map in elementary school. The profile collects information about how each student learns. The map provides information about the student’s specific path as it evolves. Both are designed to deeply know each learner and establish learning goals to ensure success in Spring Lake Park Schools and beyond.

“It’s all about discovering how a student learns best and what their interests, strengths and weaknesses are,” says Jennifer Blaido, SLPHS Career and College Readiness Counselor. “If a student begins to discover those areas at a young age, that will undoubtedly be an asset when they start their career and college search and for any path they take after graduation.”

Across grade levels, different members of the community come in to talk about their jobs. From firefighters and dental hygienists to authors and mechanical engineers, students get to learn early about the variety of careers that exist or are emerging.

Exploring passions and interests

Students in 9th and 10th grade are encouraged to take a variety of courses to find their interests and start discovering their passions and to get involved in athletics and activities.

“That discovery phase during the first few years of high school is really important and helps set the right tone and path as students navigate the rest of high school,” says Jennifer. “Once students have a better understanding of their strengths and interests, they can start taking more specialized courses and explore career and college options that are available after high school.”

In 11th and 12th grade, students are encouraged to start focusing on what they may want to do after high school based on their interests.

SLPHS student Tossy holding an iPad and sitting at a desk

Senior Tossy Johnson-Kelly took a wide variety of core classes and Career and College Pathways classes. It was through classes like “How to Make Almost Anything,” “Introduction to Engineering Design” and “Reading & Writing in the Digital Age” that he discovered an interest in engineering.

“I’ve always been good at math and science but taking a lot of different classes helped me realize I wanted to work in a math and science kind of field, which for me would be either mechanical or bio-medical engineering,” says Tossy.

In addition to courses, students have the opportunity to attend many different career, college and military events throughout the year.

“I started attending events, including the college fair, during my sophomore year of high school,” says Sanober. “It was really helpful for me to see the different options, talk with admission agents at the college fair and get a sense of what was out there and what colleges I liked and didn’t like.”

Junior Eleanor Jeppson, who has been attending virtual college fairs and events, started early, too and says she feels ahead of the game in comparison to some of her classmates.

“There are absolutely no drawbacks to preparing early, even when you’re a freshman,” says Eleanor. “It will help you in the long run and makes everything a lot less stressful.”

Counseling Support

Six counselors and one career and college readiness counselor are ready and prepared to support each student on their Spring Lake Park High School journey.  

“Each high school student is assigned to a counselor and receives one-on-one support throughout the school year,” says Jennifer. “We are here to support course selection, college and career planning, as well as any personal issue a student may be facing.”

Sanober said Jennifer has been a huge help to her family throughout her high school career and was instrumental in helping them navigate their way through the college process.

“I am the first in my family to attend high school and college in America so my parents had a lot of questions about the process from how grades and AP courses work to ACT testing and what areas I needed to focus on in order to attend college and pursue the degree I’m interested in,” says Sanober. “Mrs. Blaido always took the time to explain and answer their questions and made everything easy to understand.”

The counseling team has pulled together a Career and College Planning Hub to provide students and families one place to look for events and resources.

“We want students to understand we don’t expect each of them to know exactly what they want to do after graduation, but we hope they have many career ideas that would be a good fit for them,” says Jennifer. “SLP has the supports, tools and resources to help students know all of their options and choices after graduation.”

Options extend far beyond the traditional 4-year college. There are also 2-year colleges, trade schools, Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC), the military and more.

“We want to fight the myth that students will only be successful if they attend a 4-year college and let them know that there are a lot of opportunities after high school where they will be successful and enjoy their career,” says Jennifer. “There is not a one size fits all and we want to help each student find their right fit.” 

Finding the right fit path

SLPHS student Eleanor sitting at her desk and working on a computer

Thanks to his experiences, Tossy has found his right fit path as he pursues engineering. Even more than the specific field, he has goals for his career overall.

“My hope for after high school is to get into a career where I am helping people and feel satisfied with what I am doing,” says Tossy. “I want a career that even when I am going to work, it doesn’t feel like work – that’s the goal.”

Eleanor is still deciding what path she wants to take after high school, though she is leaning towards a career that is more law focused. She is open to the endless possibilities and knows the tools she has been given and the events she has participated in have prepared her for whatever comes next.

“Since I was 8 years old, I’ve wanted to be a lawyer, but I’ve recently changed that route to expand my horizons and see what else sparks my interests,” says Eleanor “My hope is that I can get into a good career, involved in something I am passionate about.”

As for Sanober, she has her dreams set on becoming a doctor but wants other students to know it’s okay to not have it all figured out.

From her counseling seat, Jennifer has dreams, too, that she is working hard with her colleagues to make into reality.

In a perfect world, I dream that every student leaves Spring Lake Park High School not just with their diploma, but also with a plan or first step on what they want to do with their next phase in life no matter what path they choose. -Jennifer Blaido