Students celebrate ‘Pathways’ to success

By Denise Coffey - Staff Writer
Killingly - posted Wed., Jun. 1, 2011
Natasha Beausoleil with her dad, Michael. Photos by D. Coffey.
Natasha Beausoleil with her dad, Michael. Photos by D. Coffey.

On May 25, Killingly High School held an end-of-the-year celebration for 80 students who had completed Career Pathways programs. In a welcome surprise, their recognitions was followed by the announcement that $50,000 was being donated to the Learning for Life Fund, which helps support the program. A long-time champion of the program and supporter of the fund, Michael Herklots, presented the check to School-to-Career Coordinator Bob Brennan.

Herklots graduated from KHS in 1998. He was a Career Pathway student, completing the music concentration. The path he took after high school led him to the Berklee College of Music. An accomplished drummer, Herklots merged his passion for music with a passion for cigars and currently serves as executive director of retail and brand development for Nat Sherman, a purveyor of premium cigars.

Herklots holds an annual birthday party fundraiser for the KHS program and the fund which supports it. This year's check astounded everyone, including Brennan, who has come to expect great things from Herklots.

“Herklots has contributed almost $110,000 to the fund,” Brennan said before the check's presentation. “All the money goes for supplies, equipment and transportation for students in the program. The money is earmarked specifically for Career Pathways.”

The money was a welcome gift towards creating a sustainable program, said Brennan. Since the 1990s, Brennan has been working to build the infrastructure of a program that requires students to take core courses over and above those required for graduation. Students have opportunities for experiential learning, field trips, job shadowing and leadership training. The aim is to help students identify early on the paths they want to take once they leave high school.

There are seven career clusters for students to choose from: Arts and Communications; Agriculture Education; Business and Finance; Construction and Industrial Design; Education and Human Development; Government and Public Administration; and Information Technologies.

Senior James Morgan has known for years what he’s wanted to do: be part of a software development team. He's always enjoyed math and computers, and through the Career Pathways program, he has been able to take independent studies with teachers in subjects not offered through regular classes. He worked as an intern for Savage Systems in Putnam, learning the technical aspects of the business, how to field phone calls and how to repair computers.

Not all students know what they want to do. The program works equally well for those still searching for a suitable career, according to Robin LaRochelle. A VO-AG student, LaRochelle concentrated in aquaculture since her freshman year and double concentrated in drama since her sophomore year.

“She's always been focused,” said her father, John. “The program was a good experience fore her.” It was a good experience for him, as well. The VO-AG and Career Center staff kept in close contact with parents throughout the years.

The students were presented with certificates for their concentrations prior to a speech Herklots gave to an audience of more than 200 students, parents and family members.

It's the community's responsibility to take care of its young, Herklots said. But it's also the student's responsibility to give back to the community.

He showed everyone how it could be done.

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