High school graduation is an event that marks a significant stage in a student’s life, and it is often a primary focus of educators. Although the Hudson City School District’s slogan is “Destination Graduation,” there is another measure besides graduation rate that we use to determine if we are providing a successful education: college and career readiness. Preparing all students for college and career is a primary responsibility and moral imperative for school districts across the nation.

Academic achievement is only part of a comprehensive education. School is an environment in which students also learn vital life skills related to behavior, communication, working in groups, self-discipline and persistence. These essential skills are necessary to being a successful student and effective employee.

At the HCSD, we offer a variety of opportunities and programs to help students develop the skills they need to succeed as college students, working professionals and active citizens. This is our overall mission, in partnership with our families and our community.

We are proud to partner with local higher education institutions such as Bard College, Columbia-Greene Community College and the University at Albany to offer college credits in high school. There are approximately 40 college credits available to students at Hudson High School, allowing them to earn college credits alongside their high school credits in courses such as Composition, Psychology, Pre-Calculus and Spanish. These credits are accepted by many institutions, giving our students an edge when they begin their first years of college.

We also offer a multitude of Advanced Placement courses including AP Biology, AP Environmental Science and AP U.S. History. The challenging nature of these courses provide our students with college-level academic and writing skills. Taking AP or college-level classes in high school better prepares students for rigorous college coursework and can even save on tuition costs.

It is important to understand that there are multiple pathways to a successful life beyond high school. College may not be the next step for all students but gainful employment is an essential step for all. It is our duty as educators to ready our students for college and also prepare them to be valuable members of the workforce as well as responsible, contributing citizens.

The Youth Employment Services (YES) program at HCSD is a free employment training program open to students ages 14 and older. For more than a decade, the YES program has helped students build skills and confidence in job searching, resume writing and interviews. Students also participate in local internships to apply skills such as how to be a valuable employee and the importance of being on time. Some students have a clear path to employment after graduation, and all students in the program gain beneficial work experience to add to their resumes. We are grateful for the work of Tara McSherry-Wolfe and all the YES program volunteers and business partners for cultivating job readiness in Hudson.

It is essential that all Hudson High School graduates have the skills they need to obtain and maintain a job. This year, the HCSD introduced a new life skills program for special education students at Hudson High School. The Practical Assessment Exploration System (PAES Lab) is a national hands-on assessment program that systematically develops entry-level job skills, work interests and abilities.

Additionally, PAES Lab training includes basic career and vocational skills that meet Career Development and Occupational Studies (CDOS) criteria. This is noteworthy due to changes in New York State graduation requirements that may allow for alternative pathways to graduation. Specifically, some general education students may be eligible to receive high school diplomas by accumulating a sufficient number of CDOS hours in addition to some Regents Exams. The future possibilities of the PAES Lab can provide opportunities for all of our students to graduate with career readiness.  

Sometimes students also need to hear real life experiences about possible career paths. We are pleased to welcome community members into our high school to speak to students in an informal setting each semester. Speakers share the paths that led them to their current careers and provide insight on unique career possibilities. The Creative Career Luncheon Series was designed and organized by Hudson Alderman John Friedman, who understands the value of school-to-work connections.

As I have mentioned in previous columns, providing our students with a meaningful, comprehensive education requires pooled resources and strong partnerships. We are fortunate to have programs through Questar III BOCES such as New Visions, Tech Valley High School and Career & Technical Education programs that allow students to acquire job-specific skills in fields such as nursing, culinary arts, information technology and law. Students in these programs gain work experience through internships and project-based learning, giving them the tools to do well in the workforce or college.

There are still many things we can do to improve our students’ college and career readiness. The partnerships between schools, businesses and higher education are vital to this initiative. In January, Questar III BOCES organized a roundtable event that brought these groups together to discuss possible strategies for improving readiness upon high school graduation. A summary was shared with the State Education Department.

While “Destination Graduation” is our mantra, our goal is not for students to simply pass exams and receive diplomas. Our ultimate mission is to ensure that we sufficiently prepare all students for life after high school—whether they choose college or directly enter the workforce. We aim to provide all of our students with the essential skills they need to lead successful futures.