In previous years, the Council Bluffs Community School District implemented programs to help students after they graduate high school. District officials introduced the Early College Academy program, allowing students to graduate with an associate’s degree in addition to a high school diploma. The Pottawattamie Promise scholarship was also created, where students earn two free years of school at Iowa Western Community College, along with the TradeWorks program that provides students experience in industries such as welding, carpentry, and other opportunities.
Superintendent Dr. Vickie Murillo entered her job with a vision of every student having an opportunity to graduate with not only a high school diploma in hand, but also with a second credential.
Murillo said she worked hand-in-hand with a consultant who helped the executive cabinet become a better team and later went to her team to discuss the logistics of this vision. Through continuous discussion and collaboration, the Diploma +1 plan was put in place and students now have the chance to take classes full time at IWCC, pursue internships, and earn certifications from certain CTE pathways.
This Diploma +1 initiative and these programs are especially being pushed this year in hopes that students will take advantage of these opportunities. The Plus One Pathway counselor Kathy Schmedding believes that it’s a great chance for students to find their new passion.
“It’s an opportunity for students to try something new at no cost,” Schmedding said. “Maybe you had no idea that you had an interest in early childhood development or you didn’t know all of the opportunities available in the industry or as a CNA. It’s a chance to try it as a high school student with support.”
Junior Merric Becker got involved in the TradeWorks program due to genuine interest and is now planning to pursue this as a career due to a lack of workers within the welding industry.
“I first started TradeWorks because I thought it was an interesting class and then I went into welding specifically because my dad works in a manufacturing facility and they’ve had 15 welding jobs open for the past year,” Becker said.
Many students find themselves at a loss for what’s next post-secondary. The Diploma +1 initiative helps to relieve some of that stress with additional guidance from counselors.
“If we can get them a certification out here on campus then get them directly to the workforce, we have helped guide them through that process rather than them trying to figure it out on their own after high school,” Schmedding said.
Not only will students be able to pursue this cost-free, but they will truly get to see if it’s a career path they’re interested in.
“I want them to try out pathways to see if they’re really interested and to see if it’s something they have a passion for,” Murillo said. “If we can provide that opportunity while they’re in high school before they get to college, then they don’t lose a year or two in college while they have to restart their degree or diploma pathway into a field that they might like better.”