Tucked away at the end of the first-floor hallway at the Orcas Island High School is a classroom converted into a new space: the ‘Futures Lounge.’ The room has many elements of a traditional classroom – whiteboard, overhead projector, and bookshelves. But the room also boasts five hand-me-down couches and has a relaxed vibe different from most other student spaces on campus. The goal of the Futures Lounge is to provide a safe and comfortable space for students to think about and plan for their future after high school.
The new Futures Lounge was born from the planning efforts of Principal Kyle Freeman and Counselor Meagan Gable. Knowing that OIHS students would have more ground to cover this year due to the COVID interruption (which affected students in a myriad of ways), the OIHS leadership team devised schedules where students could get additional help or squeeze in extra credit. There would also be distance to cover regarding support for Juniors and Seniors who have been preparing postsecondary plans largely on their own.
Yet no room (even one with couches) magically provides meaningful opportunities and extra support. Enter the Orcas Island Education Foundation and their donors who are funding contracts for Michele Keyes and Kate Long to coordinate programming in the Futures Lounge.
“OIHS has always had a strong and successful partnership with the Funhouse to offer college counseling and FAFSA guidance. Now with funding from OIEF, and having this new space, we can work with students one-on-one. We can also schedule dynamic speakers to talk to students not only about 4-year college pathways but also Trade opportunities,” said Long. “We want to help students through the college application process, and offer options for entering internships or journeyman programs, or set up a job-shadow in an area of interest.”
“Down the road, we hope to work more with the Career and Technical Education (CTE) program in our district to support those avenues too,” said Keyes.
Both parents of recent OIHS graduates, Keyes and Long have experience in worker retraining and in college counseling. With the newly designed curriculum including Senior Seminar this fall semester and Junior Seminar in the spring, OIHS students have a dedicated time to focus on what will come after high school – and make plans for action toward their goals.
Lunchtime is also busy in the Futures Lounge when there is proofreading help or educational videos about career planning. And sometimes when the Lounge is open it’s just a good place for students to relax on the couch and take a deep breath.
For more information, visit https://sites.google.com/orcas.k12.wa.us/futureslounge/home or follow on Instagram @oi_futures_lounge.