Grades 9–12 can feel like the years fly by, but one question becomes more prominent in the final years of school for students: what will they do after graduation? It can be scary to think about the future, especially when someone isn’t quite sure what they want, and so many decisions hinge on their choice.
Taking the first step forward may feel intimidating with so many potential jobs in the world, but students at Calgary Academy have career counsellor Jessie Holwell in their corner, providing support and guidance as they head into the next chapter of their lives.
Paying It Forward
Ms. Holwell’s school experience growing up shaped her career today. She was surrounded by encouraging teachers who wanted to see her thrive and follow her dreams.
After working as a long-time teacher, she felt a desire to move into the guidance department, feeling like she was a natural fit (she was). It was a way to work one-on-one with students and learn more about their interests and future goals.
“I had wonderful high school teachers who were my cheerleaders and encouraged me to pursue my dreams… I always felt I was going to pay it forward and let students know they can achieve their goals.” – Ms. Holwell
Being the support system for students can make a world of difference. Sometimes, all someone needs is the encouragement to try something they may have never thought possible.
Ms. Holwell remembers when a former student emailed her about their current career. She was the spark that sent them on their journey to become a successful lawyer. What seemed like a small moment of motivation led a student on a 10-year journey.
“It’s those moments where you don’t know the impact your encouragement can have. You don’t realize what’s resonating in a student’s heart and that you’re helping propel them forward.”
Showing Students All of Their Options
Every student is different—which Ms. Holwell knows well. Some people know what they want from life, others may have an idea, and many aren’t sure yet.
She focuses on meeting students where they are in their plans, whether it’s looking at dream universities, exploring general interests, or discussing the possibility of a gap year or apprenticeship.
“You have to meet kids where they’re at. I try to never put pressure on what to do when they’re going to graduate because it’s scary… I’m here to walk students through this process and help them figure things out.” – Ms. Holwell
One of Ms. Holwell’s favourite parts of her role at CA is how different every week can look. She might meet with students, chat with university representatives, or travel to job sites for students completing special projects (she did a safety inspection for a farm earlier this year).
With the school’s diverse alumni community, Ms. Holwell regularly connects with graduates, whether it’s bringing someone in to speak about their careers or meeting with Senior School students during a campus tour.
“I love when our alumni can connect… Our students can see someone older who has made the post-graduation transition successfully. They can see themselves in someone who’s doing well.”
No matter what CA students hope to do in the future, Ms. Holwell is there to help. If students feel stuck trying to plan their future, she recommends not trying to find every solution right away.
Ms. Holwell believes if someone pursues their interests, everything will eventually fall into place. She looks forward to working with students in the Pathways to Post Secondary program in the remaining months of the school year.
“We put so much pressure on young people to know what they want to do, but that will all unfold for them. The best thing students can do is follow the things that excite and make them feel passionate.” – Ms. Holwell
Any CA alumni are welcome and encouraged to reach out to Ms. Holwell if they’re interested in speaking with students about their career or post-graduation journey.