CWNC Prepares Students for Life Through Career Development Program


By Lisa Logan

As high schools increasingly place emphasis on preparing students for post-secondary education and their future careers, a growing number of teachers are fusing classroom learning with hands-on experience. At Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic (CWNC), Jennifer Parsons, program manager of the Career Development Program, combines academics with career exploration.

Students begin with a Career Action Plan (CAP) during their freshmen year. This is part of their e-portfolio in which they self-report on their career interests and where they research work environments. Developing portfolios helps students identify where their passions lie and prepares them for their career. They build on their CAP throughout high school and conduct additional research and activities, such as conducting interviews with people in their chosen career fields, researching majors, certifications, and potential job shadowing prospects. The students continue to expand their self-awareness skills by creating cover letters, resumes and participating in mock interviews.
“I applied for an internship this year and the CAP really helped me in writing my cover letter,” says Gillian Ward, an incoming senior at CWNC. “Before CAP, I did not know what a cover letter was. Having the background knowledge and help in writing one, I was much more comfortable in applying for the internship.”
In addition, the Career Development Program at CWNC just finished its second year and continues to expand. The career-related “My Path” Speaker Series has proven to be very popular with students and is always followed or preceded by a hands-on field trip in the related career area.
In April, students had the opportunity to tour Cranberry’s Windrose Animal Hospital with owner and veterinarian, Dr. RJ Skalos. Dr. Skalos provided the students with a tour of the office and shared his journey to owning his own practice. They learned how important classroom knowledge is in relation to veterinary medicine. The students then journeyed to the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center to learn about the care that goes into helping injured animals as they prepare to release them back to their natural habitat.
The Career Development Program repeats this same format every month, changing the career field so that students are exposed to a variety of career paths in a chosen field. The hands-on aspect truly engages them and gives them a unique perspective on what they could expect “on-the-job.”
Several students interested in education and leadership recently had the opportunity to participate in Junior Achievement’s High School Heroes Program at St. Wendelin Catholic School. They spent a day with the elementary and middle school students, working in teams to provide lessons about critical thinking, problem solving, managing money and preparing for the future to each grade level.
“This is what it is all about. Helping students explore careers and giving them exposure to a variety of possibilities, so that when it comes time to making decisions such as choosing a major, potential career or school, they can make the decision with confidence,” says Parsons. “Sometimes it is about helping a student narrow their focus or even crossing a career off their list and that is okay too.”
The Career Development does not stop in the summer either. In its second year, students can participate in College Caravan, in which students tour local colleges and universities. The College Caravan allows students to get familiar with schools and programs and experience the day-to-day life of a college student.
CWNC helps students excel in academics, discover their strengths and acquire the skills necessary to prepare them for post-secondary education and beyond. Anyone interested in learning more about CWNC and our career development program can contact Jennifer Parsons at 412-321-4823 ext.134 or at