School staff from the Lawrence School and Falmouth High School, in collaboration with the Falmouth Volunteers In Public Schools program and community members, spent the summer planning for a new program that will pilot this fall.

Called the Pathways Program, the goal is to utilize community resources and support to actively engage and equip students to graduate and pursue post-secondary careers or college endeavors.

The exploratory phase of the Pathways Program will involve a small group of 7th, 8th, and 9th graders. Students will participate in activities that will help them develop strategies to increase educational success and confidence, set realistic goals, develop self-esteem and social/emotional self-confidence, acquire skills desired by employers and colleges, and explore workplace environments, training programs, and post-secondary career and educational opportunities. The program is intended to support students throughout their junior high and high school years. Participants will also have access to both adult and peer mentorships.

“I am thrilled to have this opportunity to work with VIPS and pilot the Pathways Program at FHS with a cohort of our grade 9 students,” Falmouth High School Principal Mary Gans said. “The program’s focus on both career and college opportunities through a mentor and community partnership model is incredibly exciting, and will inspire students to have a positive outlook on their futures by preparing them for post-high school opportunities that they may never have thought were possible.”

Lawrence School Principal Tom Bushy, who is also part of the planning team, agrees.

“Talking with the students about future college and career paths is part of our regular practice,” he said. “But students in the Pathways Program will be exposed to many post-grad opportunities on a much more meaningful and applicable scale.” In addition, he says, “connecting students with community partners they may not otherwise meet will be valuable and inspiring.”

Cape Cod Aggregates CEO Laura Peterson is a member of the planning team as well and brings the dual perspectives of business owner and mentor to the program design. Laura says she is committed to the success of the Pathways Program because it will “pair students with mentors who are willing to share their experiences with best practices for living life.” She believes that taking the time to empower young people “to do the next right thing is an investment that benefits our entire community.”

Falmouth students have long benefited from strong community support. The Pathways Program offers yet another opportunity for community businesses, volunteers and organizations to get involved with students.

Dr. Robert V. Antonucci, President-Emeritus of Fitchburg State University, sees the value in building a strong foundation for students.

"The Pathways Program is the dream of college administrators and future employers," he said. "Giving these students an early start to succeed, acquire lifelong skills, and then be able to start a career or attend college is well worth the investment we are making."

Fellow committee member and VIPS volunteer Paul Daigle concurs.

“Many students graduate high school without any clear direction,” he said. “This program will create opportunities for students to explore workplace environments both for the college bound and students entering the workforce.”

Daigle, a retired superintendent, currently serves on the board of the New England Association of Schools and College (NEASC), a nonprofit that works with schools to maintain high standards for all levels of education.

Mentors are currently needed to help students who will be participating in the pilot program set to start this fall. The pilot group will include a mix of seventh, eighth, and ninth graders. Community members interested in serving as mentors are invited to attend an information session on October 2 at 4:30 p.m. in the Falmouth High School Library, located just inside the main lobby.

To sign up or for more details, please contact the Falmouth VIPS office at 508-548-1621 or by sending email to vips@falmouth.k12.ma.us. Mentors will be matched with a student and meet at the student’s school two to four times each month.

In addition, community members interested in sharing expertise and/or hosting students in workplace visits should also contact VIPS. A database will be compiled by subject area and availability so that sessions can be scheduled throughout the school year.