Whether you’re the tutor of a high school student, the parent of one, or a teenager yourself, you’re going to find out quickly that Beverly Singleton can offer assistance in steering high schoolers toward their next steps.
Beverly is Cluster’s program specialist for Project Next Step, a new program specifically aimed at those in high school as they look to the future. Students will get help as they think about both colleges and careers.
“I’m working toward a plan for all students,” said Beverly. “We’re going to work together to see what they’re going to do when they graduate from high school.”
There are a total of 24 high school students at Cluster this year, freshmen through seniors. Throughout the tutoring year, Beverly will be on hand every Tuesday and Thursday night to meet with students and their tutors individually. “I’ve introduced myself to the juniors and seniors and told them I’m going to be talking to them,” she said.
For freshmen, Beverly said, the idea is to get them thinking about college. For sophomore and juniors, she’ll share information about tests such as the ACT and SAT, and the preparation they need to take the tests. She will walk them through the process of what to do each year.
“By the time they’re seniors, they should be ready. The idea is to make sure they have a plan in place,” she said. Beverly will have an activity sheet for each student, so they can keep track of their plans and ideas. She has a special Project Next Step binder for easy referral to keep everything organized.
At meetings with individual students and tutors, Beverly hopes to get teens thinking about possible careers. “They can research different careers,” she said. “The tutor will be a part of that, too.”
Beverly is fairly new at working in the education field. She has 20-some years of experience working in finance. When she lost her job during the Great Recession in 2009, she decided to switch to education. She has worked as a GED instructor, for the West Suburban Special Recreation Association, and as a substitute teacher in several high schools, including a high school for kids with special needs. “I really want to work with high school kids,” she said.
Beverly also plans to meet the parents of Cluster high school students. She wants to organize a “meet and greet” after the first of the year to introduce herself to parents. As a first step, she emailed all parents of juniors and seniors about a free upcoming trip to visit Illinois State University and Illinois Wesleyan University in Bloomington-Normal, organized through another tutor/mentor program, Cabrini Connections.
Beverly also will assist students and their families in applying for scholarships and financial aid. That will include filling out the FAFSA form — Free Application for Federal Student Aid — and finding out what kind of scholarship help might be available.
“I had two kids in college at the same time, so I learned where to look for scholarships,” she said. “Sometimes they’re faith-based scholarships. Sometimes they’re offered by specific schools. There are a lot more available than you think.”
Not all scholarships require students to have top grades, either. “If they’re struggling in high school, I try to find ones where you don’t have to have a minimum GPA,” Beverly said. “There are all kinds of scholarships out there. You just never know.”
For those who might not be interested in attending college, Beverly also will talk about other possible choices. Those might include vocational training, technical training, enlisting in the military, or working for AmeriCorps. “At AmeriCorps they get paid, and it offers them a chance to move into a job,” she said.
Whatever the next step, Beverly wants to make sure students are prepared.
“The plan is to get them to find out what their goals are,” she said. “I’m excited. Hopefully, I can share some of my knowledge with them.”