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North Central principal helps students think beyond school

Principal Steven Gering works with North Central sophomores Brianna Sillivan, left, and Sherece Stout on their college plans. (Dan Pelle)
Principal Steven Gering works with North Central sophomores Brianna Sillivan, left, and Sherece Stout on their college plans. (Dan Pelle)

North Central High School Principal Steven Gering was one of nine educators statewide recently honored with a Golden Apple award for making a significant change in secondary education. During the past five years, he’s helped boost by 20 percent the number of students at his school who go on to college. Gering deflects praise for the dramatic change, crediting the collaborative effort of the school’s staff.

Q. How have you accomplished raising the numbers of kids pursuing college?

A. We are taking a proactive approach. We are setting up databases so we can track kids. Every single kid, you told us you wanted to go to a four-year college; you haven’t taken the SAT yet. We are calling you down or signing you up right now. You haven’t filled out your federal financial aid forms; we will do it right now, right here with an adult.We’ve promoted the idea of college to kids through matching them up with adults in advisory groups. Every single kid is connected with an adviser, and they meet with those advisers 15 times per year. In the advisory meetings, just matching up their grade-point average with the college they want to go to gives them a goal, (or) finding out if their SAT scores match up.

More kids are taking the tests for college entrance, such as the pre-SAT, SAT and ACT. We used to have about 40 or 50 kids take the pre-SAT and last week we had 400 or 500.

We tested all our seniors on the placement test for two-year colleges. We found out just the barrier of having to have a kid call the school, schedule an appointment, get out of school, pay $25, drive over, take the test – for that two-year college-bound kid that was pretty significant.We were taking kids to colleges for tours and emphasizing that there aren’t jobs out there for high school diplomas; you need an advanced degree.

Q. What was one of the largest obstacles for kids wanting to go to college?

A. One of the biggest things we found out was that the high school graduation requirements didn’t match up with the requirements to get into college. They weren’t even completing the requirements that gave them the choice to apply to a four-year college. We’ve really pushed the course work necessary to get into college, the extra math or the extra science, world language that families didn’t realize was a requirement.

Q. Outside of being proactive, how are students influenced about considering college?

A. Studies show that kids are affected by their environment. Kids tend to do what their friends do. (So the school makes) the kids aware of post-secondary opportunities and making college talk a constant throughout their four years.

Also, staff has college corners, signs up representing where they went to college and kids ask about the schools. The message of going to college is bombarding them.

Q. Have the testing fees gotten in the way of kids taking the tests they need for college?

A. Yes. This year’s seniors had a grant, and it paid for all the college tests. There are other grants out there, too.

Q. Were there advisory groups, college corners and field trips to colleges five years ago?

A. None of that was being done. Our staff doesn’t believe our mission is just to get kids a diploma – it’s to get them to some post-secondary (program). That’s our job.

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