Facing the Future: Junior-led academic conferences motivate students to plan life after high school


Listening to Dean of Students Alex Keith, juniors follow a presentation regarding the new junior-led academic conferences. “You can earnestly tell your parents thank you for all that they’ve done for you, Keith said during his presentation. “I don’t know how many 16 and 17-year-olds earnestly tell their parents thank you, but it is a powerful thing and this will give you an opportunity to do that in a formalized setting.”

Junior year proposes an imperative yet chilling question to students: what will the future look like after high school? With newly implemented student-led conferences occurring in the spring, juniors will have the opportunity to organize their future plans and goals with the guidance of the administration office as well as their counselors and parents. 

The academic stress of junior year often consumes students into cycles of procrastination or obsession. Whether they are trying to maintain a certain GPA, or find the right colleges and majors, students often feel never-ending anxiety about the future. This experience is what Dean of Students Alex Keith and Principal Maureen Engen hoped to tackle as a team this year with this project, which they introduced to the junior class on the day underclassmen took the Pre-ACT.  

“I think the biggest reason [for the project] is that we care about each and every student,” Keith said. “We do not want anybody else falling through the cracks or want anybody feeling like they do not have an individualized time where we help you prepare for your future.” 

Juniors will follow a Google Slides template created by the guidance office to create a presentation regarding their service to others and spiritual development, Naviance survey results, a program of study, graduation progress and a conclusion of life after senior year to showcase a detailed realistic plan for life after graduation and how the school has prepared them for adulthood. 

Student-led conferences will be held on April 6th, Holy Thursday, while the rest of the students have the day off. The slideshow will be presented to the junior student’s parents, counselor, and one teacher. According to Engen, students aren’t limited to attending college as details of marriage, lifestyle, or any aspiration are also welcomed. 

“I do want you to write down if you have college as one of your future goals,” Engen told juniors last Wednesday. “Beyond those four years this might be that you want to work for yourself someday, you want to renounce all your possessions and join a monastery to become a monk or maybe you have dreams of getting married and starting a family.”  

With this student-led conference, juniors will begin to tackle the bigger questions of what comes next without carrying the stress and journey of it alone.

“I am not expecting everybody at the end of their project to say they have applied to six colleges, but it is important to start thinking about that,” Keith said. “We also want to reassure your parents that you are okay and that you are going to be ready for the future.”