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Planning for college

College: It’s not a dream, it’s a plan!

By Linda West, School Counselor

Executive function challenges? Dyslexia? ADHD? Will my student ever go to college?

The answer is a resounding “YES”!

Will it take determination, resiliency, and perseverance? YES!

Is it worth the extra time, effort and commitment? YES!

Building the foundation for college success begins at Park!

Park Academy’s focus on strengthening executive functioning skills, encouraging students’ use of assistive technologies, and developing personal responsibility and self-advocacy skills is the scaffolding that builds college readiness. (My use of the term “college” includes four year, two years, and certificate options, in addition to trade schools.) Teachers’ concerted efforts are helping students rewrite their internal scripts: “I can’t do math/reading/writing” is being replaced by academic growth, skill development, and increased success. “I don’t do homework”? Not anymore! Sixth period at Park Academy High School finds students engaged in their Academic Support Class: concentrating, asking questions and exploring answers as they take their learning and understanding to a new level.

The academic support class at Park provides an opportunity for students to develop and practice effective study habits, executive functioning skills, and using assistive technologies. Students work with teachers and their peers on assignments and group projects. These are all skills that will support their continued success in college.

In addition, students visit college campuses on multiple occasions during their time at Park. While exploring programs that match students’ career interests, there is a focus on the transition to college by locating and visiting resources that parallel those at Park: counseling and advising, tutoring and writing centers, and instructors’ offices and hours. Students get to meet staff in the orientation centers and Offices of Disability Services, so they know how to access services. Lastly, all students are strongly encouraged to take a college course during their senior year in order to ensure a smooth transition to college upon graduation.

Next steps: finding a college that fits

Students’ college and career pathways are further developed through class-based field trips (to Nike, Intel, and the Art Museum). Our Career Education class provides a rich, in-depth study with a final, presentation on three possible college/career options. An individual learning plan that includes career-related learning experiences, job shadows and transition to the next level of education is accomplished through the counseling office. Students graduate with a plan, that is not only developed, but actually in process to ensure a smooth transition.

2017 Fall Aspire Conference, Linda West, Counselor and Kathi Harvey, Aspire mentor, attended to learn how they can best support high school students in their career and college explorations.

What college is right for your student? Resources are shared, explored and available to students and families through the counseling program. There are many factors to consider in selecting the educational program or school following graduation from Park Academy, such as majors, programs, location, size, cost and proximity to home. There are hundreds of colleges that offer a wide range of services for students with learning differences.

A few examples include UCAM at Southern Oregon University, the SALT program at The University of Arizona, or the all-inclusive Landmark College in Putney, Vermont. Local community colleges are a great option for students who would like to start out on a part-time schedule, benefit from living at home, or are interested in a career pathway program. Career pathways enable students to complete a short course of study, leading to a high skill-level job, and continue their education as they advance on the job and pay scale.

What additional supports are available in college for students with learning differences?

Colleges have a wide range of supports and programs for students with learning differences. Students with a documented disability can request the accommodations that they’ve used in high school, such as extended time on tests. At the Disabilities Services office, new students meet with an advisor before the term starts and bring documentation from a medical/professional provider to apply for approval of accommodations. If the student is on IEP, a copy may be helpful but may not be required. Check with the college or program.

Once approved, it’s up to the student to advocate for, request, and activate their accommodations! Studies show that only 17% of students with learning disabilities take advantage of the learning resources in college. Again, Park Academy’s personalized learning environment focuses on students developing the skills that become habits for continued academic success after high school.

Establishing habits of self-advocacy, resiliency, academic focus, and resource utilization will help build capacity for success at Park today and in the future. Parents, educators and most importantly, even students themselves, all might ask, “Is college a possibility?” I firmly believe and know from experience, that there is a path to college for everyone. And Park Academy is part of the plan.

Linda West, School Counselor at Park Academy, looks forward to her continued work with you and your student in developing their post high school plan. Watch for “A Note from Parker” for upcoming events.


  • Career Technical Programs, PCC Preview Day Cascade Campus– December 1st.
  • “Tips from the Class of 2017”, Student panel, Park Academy graduates, 2017, to be announced
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