It’s never too early to dream of becoming a vet or a doctor or a rocket scientist.

After all, kids love to dream.

Brooke Nova wants to put those dreams into action as the Hillsboro School District’s new College & Career Pathways coordinator.

Stepping in to a newly created position, Nova has a laundry list of “to-dos” during the 2014-15 school year and beyond.

The Hillsboro school board voted to fund $100,000 in 2014-15 for a district-level coordinator to oversee college and career counseling at the district’s high schools.

Assistant superintendent Steve Larson said the work of starting a career pathways project to prepare students for work and education after high school began almost two years ago.

“The amount of potential was really exciting,” Larson said.

Community partners including the city of Hillsboro, the Chamber of Commerce and area businesses are all working together to create internships, apprenticeships and work experiences for students.

“With the sheer volume of potential, we need someone to tie it all together; manage the larger project,” Larson said.

Until now, all four district high schools had a college and career counselor, but Larson said, “without the (new) position, there were four different ways of going about it.”

Career counseling is nothing new to Nova. She spent the last seven years as a counselor at Glencoe High School.

In June, Nova’s first order of business was the College & Career Pathways kickoff, with representatives from the city, chamber, colleges, the school district and local businesses gathering to get an introduction to the program.

Starting the dialog

Nova is passionate about creating opportunities for students to explore college and career options and helping them plan for their future.

“Youth say that by high school, they’re already stressed and overwhelmed about making these decisions,” Nova said.

She says it’s crucial to start the (college and career) dialog at an early age, to “not deliver a one-size-fits-all message,” but to individualize career counseling.

By doing this, Nova hopes students will come in to high school with a foundation of knowledge about opportunities and career options available to them.

By creating partnerships in the community, Nova hopes to give students a range of real-world experiences through job shadows, longer-term internships and apprenticeships.

Beyond nurturing community partnerships, Nova wants to spread the word to parents about the College & Career Pathways project.

That’s where her summer intern, Shirley Araiza, comes in.

Araiza, a rising senior at Glencoe High School and a member of the Hillsboro mayor’s Youth Advisory Council, is working with Nova to create a video introducing career pathways to parents, businesses and even to students.

Araiza is one of the city of Hillsboro interns, taking part in the city’s first-year internship program.

Having had several opportunities to explore career fields herself — as a freshman, Araiza wanted to be a doctor; now she has her sights set on policy and politics — she understands the importance of a community effort to help students with career planning.

“It’s important (to promote) healthy thinking in younger kids,” Araiza said. “If you want to be an astronaut, you can be.”

With a solid start to the project, Nova said, she’s eager to put it all into action this coming school year.

“I love that I get to be a part of visioning what’s to come,” she said.

What to expect

Nova has five specific goals to put into action during the 2014-15 school year.

n Hold district-wide parent nights, educating students and families how to be more prepared and have a post-high school plan;

n Form a Latino parent advisory committee to help address specific needs and concerns of first-generation students in college preparation and career planning;

n Help ensure more students complete their FAFSA forms. FAFSA is the federal financial aid form that must be submitted by students seeking financial aid and scholarships;

n Individualize college and career planning. Hold face-to-face meetings between students and counselors each year;

n Launch Naviance, a new career planning tool that helps students articulate and translate academic achievement into future college and career goals.

In addition, Nova will continue her work to form school district-community partnerships and create additional partnerships with post-secondary schools.

“Really what we’re doing is building the next generation,” Nova said. “It’s like putting together a thousand-piece jigsaw puzzle.”

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