Houston County students on BRIDGE path

acastillo@macon.comApril 26, 2011 

WARNER ROBINS -- This spring, eighth-grade students at Feagin Mill Middle School and across the state are mapping out their high school courses for the next four years, even before they become freshmen.

About 60 parents, students and family members attended a meeting at Feagin Mill on Monday night to learn more about the Building Resourceful Individuals to Develop Georgia’s Economy (BRIDGE) Act, signed into law last year. Similar information sessions will be held at other Houston County middle schools.

According to the legislation, students will work with their parents to develop an individualized graduation plan by the second semester of their eighth-grade year. Under the plan, students choose their high school courses based on their career interests. High school students will revisit those plans every year and will have the opportunity to adjust their plans as needed.

“We get them thinking with the end in mind,” said Jim Langley, Feagin Mill’s assistant principal of instruction. “If they have a goal, even if it changes, they’re more likely to stick to it.”

The BRIDGE Act helps provide more support beyond surveys and career-related courses offered to students in the past, said Kathy James, coordinator of students services in Houston County.

Houston County students are tracking their courses and taking career assessments through GAcollege411.org, a website run by the Georgia Student Finance Commission.

In addition to keeping track of their high school courses as they are completed, the site also provides resources for standardized test preparation, financial aid and other postsecondary related information.

“We want to make sure we’re providing all of our students information to help them make plans beyond high school,” James said.

While the site provides academic guidance, the students register for high school classes in a separate process.

Comblena Lewis said the website will help her keep track of her daughter’s academic progress.

“You can access it anytime to make sure she’s always on schedule to graduation on time,” Lewis said. “I have peace of mind knowing she’s on track.”

Some, such as Kevin Holloway were initially concerned using the online tracking system would limit his daughter’s opportunities in high school by making her select a career path in the eighth grade.

“That’s a lot of pressure on a kid,” he said. “Now I see how easy it is to change her career path were she to change her mind.”

Parent Kathy Brown said would have liked to have a high school representative on hand to discuss the transition from middle to high school.

For the most part though, she felt the session was informative and allowed parents to give feedback.

Ultimately, she hopes the BRIDGE Act will help decrease high school dropout rates.

“It’ll help keep kids in school to have a plan (and) move them forward,” she said.

To contact writer Andrea Castillo, call 256-9751.

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