“It’s all about individual conversations,” college prep advisor Kerri Chaput reflects while discussing her work with W.F. West seniors. “All we want is for them to be happy, to have a job where they can support themselves and a family.” Kerri is in the business of success. When you hear her talk about what it means to be successful, she focuses on lifelong happiness and career enjoyment. “You’re going to be working the rest of your life, so how can we find something that you would be happy doing. This will look different for each student.”
As she can tell you, career success and happiness in your life are more often than not linked to a post-secondary credential. “Statistically speaking, more and more jobs are going to require some kind of training after high school.”
Kerri loves her job. The path for her was not a straight line to Career & College Counseling. Her college path took her from community college to the University of London and then Saint Martin’s University. She started filing as a work-study student in the Financial Aid Office at Saint Martin’s and, over time, worked at Centralia College, Washington Student Achievement Council, and was the Director of Grants and Scholarships at South Puget Sound Community College, where she remained for over ten years. This winding path led her to W.F. West High School. As someone who did not have a straight line from “A” to “B”, it’s easy for her to relate to her students who may not have all of their post-high school plans figured out.
Recently The Chronicle published a story about statistics that has gained some attention. Namely, that 100% of the class of 2020 were accepted to a post-secondary program. This was by no means an accident. As a part of the culture of career and college readiness that has grown in Chehalis over the years, students are encouraged to apply to a college, apprenticeship, trade school, or the military their senior year. Some of the students at W.F. West begin their senior year with a plan in mind for life after high school. But for others, the thought of college is out of reach. Going through the process of applying to a college gives them something that is forever theirs – pride of achievement and an acceptance letter to college. There is no longer a mystery surrounding the application process. If they choose not to attend college or a program right away, they have the confidence in being accepted no matter what their path may be after graduation. This is a direct result of their experiences at W.F. West.
The application process is just one step in a long journey for seniors as they prepare for life after high school. From September through May, students are busy completing a checklist of activities culminating to graduation day. The end of the year is a bittersweet time for Kerri and the staff at W. F. West as they say their goodbyes to all the students they have worked with and know so well.
When asked what she is most proud of in her job, she re-centered the focus on the students. The students are the reason and passion for her work. Their success and happiness are the reasons we are all in education.