Jonathan Schinasi Jr. knows he wants to succeed after high school.
The question is: How? A new bill in the Florida Legislature could help him find the answer.
On Oct. 21, state Rep. Shevrin Jones filed HB 199, which would require every Florida school district to offer a course that better prepares high school students for the transition into college and their careers. State Sen. Oscar Braynon II filed an identical bill in the Florida Senate.
If passed, the class would be implemented by July 2014 and offered to high school juniors and seniors.
Schinasi, a 14-year-old freshman at F.W. Buchholz High School, said he would consider taking the class to help him better plan for the future.
The curriculum would include writing college admissions essays and resume cover letters, setting goals for the student’s college and career plans, and learning about personal finances and student loans.
Bill provisions also include a test to gauge students’ career interests as early as ninth grade. Test results can help build a personalized curriculum plan before students enroll in the course, and each school would be required to offer evening and weekend hours to meet with parents to review results.
Schinasi’s stepmother, Jill Clemens, said she thinks it could be helpful to parents who don’t know which classes their children can take to help them with future goals.
“It’s kind of hard for me to figure out exactly what track he needs to be on because I’ve been out of school for such a long time,” Clemens said. “The information is out there; they just don’t make it easy enough for parents to find out about it.”
Kevin Christian, spokesman for Marion County School District, said he believes the legislature may have good intentions, but is concerned the bill will lack the government funding to back it.
“This would require additional teachers, additional time on campus, additional compensation to those people, so we’re talking more money,” Christian said.
WUFT News attempted to contact state Rep. Jones and state Sen. Braynon several times for comment, and they were unavailable.
Currently, Florida school districts don’t have a unified approach to college and career preparation. Each has developed its own method.
In Marion County, high schools offer the International Baccalaureate program and dual enrollment classes, both of which give students the opportunity to earn college credit. School counselors are also instrumental in preparing students.
Students are paired with the same school counselors from ninth grade to graduation. The consistency helps build personal relationships so the counselors have a true understanding of students’ goals and how best to help them succeed, Christian said.
St. Johns County high schools offer semester-long college success classes in specific subjects, such as math, reading and writing.
Linda Thomson, director for instructional services at St. Johns County School District, said the courses are designed to help bridge the gap between high school and college.
The writing course can help seniors applying to college sharpen their writing skills by working on their admission essays as an assignment, Thomson said.
Although Thomson said the proposed bill could be a good idea, she believes preparing students for their lives after high school is a collaborative effort that involves more than one college prep course.
“It’s the mission of every teacher, principal and administrator to prepare students for success in academics or the work force,” Thomson said. “If the graduates aren’t prepared, then I take that as a personal failure.”