HORSE CAVE — There’s a new face at Caverna High School this semester, and he is ready to help students plan for their future. Random Harrison, CHS college coach, began his second day on the job Thursday.
CHS Principal Matthew Bastin said the college coach position is designed specifically to help students who would be first-generation college graduates in their family — but since Caverna is a smaller school, Harrison is “going to work with lots of our students.”
“His goal is to help remove barriers for kids who want to go to college, whether that be completing things like financial aid forms, scholarship applications, researching programs that kids want to go to, contacting universities for students,” Bastin said, adding that Harrison will be that buffer between students and potential schools.
The college coach will help motivate and encourage students, Bastin said, and “make sure they’re on track.”
Harrison said one of his main objectives is to “let our students know that they have support for beyond high school, that there’s someone to help guide them towards either college or trade school or the career path that they’re interested in, so that they don’t have to feel like they’re just out in the world without any sort of net or just thrown out there in the cold.”
“I know from personal experience that leaving high school is jarring,” Harrison said. “It’s very jarring. Having a plan and having steps in place is very important.”
Harrison said he wants to make sure students are aware of available scholarships and grants that they might not have known about on their own.
“So I work with our guidance counselor (Jessica Miles) and people all over the state to help bring that information to them in a way that they can understand it,” he said. “And sort of disseminate it for them so that it’s not overwhelming.”
When students have parents who didn’t go to college, post-secondary education can seem “far-fetched or outside of their normal realm of opportunity,” Harrison said. “I want them to know that they have that opportunity, that what they want to do is valid and important and they have the ability to do whatever they want in their life.”
Bastin said he was a first-generation college graduate, “so a lot of those questions that my mom and dad didn’t know, a college coach would have helped."
“I didn’t have that,” he said. “I kind of just winged it on my own.”
Having some sort of direction for life after high school is very important, Harrison said.
“I think it’s huge,” he said. “I think that a lot of times, once students leave high school, they don’t know what the next step is — there’s no structure anymore. They don’t have to do anything that they were doing before, and a lot of times it can be overwhelming and stressful to the point that they just end up going to a factory job.
“Not to say that that’s a bad career path. There’s nothing wrong with it. But I don’t want anyone to feel like that’s what they had to do."
Even though Thursday was his second day at Caverna, Harrison said he has already met many of the students.
“My favorite part is getting to know the students, getting rapport built,” he said. “Each one of them is so different and so unique, so learning about what they want to do, where they want to go and knowing that I can help with that is hugely rewarding.
“I want them to know that I’m someone that they can go to if they have any questions. Just because I didn’t pull you (from class), doesn’t mean you can’t come to me. I want to be as accessible as possible.”