Frequently Asked Questions about Career Pathways at Westbrook HS

Are you expecting 14-year-old kids to decide what they want to do for a career for the rest of their lives? Are you pigeonholing kids into a career too early?  We are not asking students to decide what they want to do for the rest of their lives in the Career Pathways structure at Westbrook High School.  We are asking students to think about career interests early so they can begin to explore career options and prepare for success by placing meaningful effort in their high school studies.  The Career Pathways structure at Westbrook allows students to select and explore a different pathway each year of high school if they choose.  

Does this Career Pathway structure mean the school is emphasizing careers over college?  No.  Westbrook High School students will all end up in careers but do so after exiting high school through multiple exit points.   For those students who wish to attend two- or four-year colleges or universities to further their education and training, the school's counselors and faculty will continue to support students toward college entrance success as they have always done.  School counselors and faculty will continue to support students who wish to exit high school for trade schools or the military, and they will continue to provide support for students exiting high school toward sustainable employment.  

Besides being able to select recommended electives, what other benefits are there to Career Pathways at Westbrook High School?  Each of the 22 pathways at Westbrook High School are organized into one of three career clusters.  Students within each cluster will be cohorted together in core required courses as much as possible.  For example, Grade 9 students enrolled in pathways that make up the Arts, Business, and Communications Career Cluster will be enrolled in Grade 9 college preparatory English/Language together.  The English/Language arts teacher is then able to teach students through the lens of the Arts, Business, and Communications theme so that students see the importance of the course content to their future success.  The idea is students won't need to ask, "Why do I need to learn this anyway?"  Honors level students will be enrolled in courses with students across multiple pathways. A second benefit is that Career Connections activities that enhance student career exploration and preparation can be specifically planned by career cluster.

What is a Pathway Course?  Pathway Courses are elective courses recommended for students within a selected pathway.  These courses are designed to help students gain knowledge and skills required for success in the career pathway beyond high school, whether the student chooses to further their skill-building by attending a two- or four-year college or trade school, or enters the military or the workforce.  Students should plan to enroll in a Level One course upon career pathway selection.

What if a student has already taken a Level Two through Four Pathway course but has not taken the Level One Course?  When  a student selects a career pathway that most interests them, they should enroll in a Level One course.  If they have already successfully completed a course that is currently a Level Two through Four course, they should go ahead and sign up for the Level One course in order to complete the pathway course sequence.  

What if I end up not liking the career pathway I selected?  What then?  One benefit of the career pathways structure is that students get a chance to meaningfully explore a career path.  If, after taking a Pathway Course and engaging in other Career Connections activities related to the career pathway, a student discovers the career pathway they selected just doesn't suit them, they may simply choose a different career pathway in the spring of each school year.  If a student selects a new pathway, they simply enroll in the Level One course for the new pathway.  Since required courses remain the same across all pathways, there is no problem.  

What is an Other Recommended Elective?  Other Recommended Electives are elective courses that support the knowledge and skills important to a student's career pathway selection.  

What happens if I would rather take elective courses that are fun and exciting to me but are not recommended Pathway Courses?  Students who are great musicians, artists, actors, for example, should enroll in the courses that make them happy and more well-rounded individuals--even if it means they are not enrolled in the Pathway Courses recommended for their selected career pathway.  You will notice that these courses are often a part of the Other Recommended Electives.  If a student wants to learn how to cook for themselves and others even though they want to work in the world of business and finance, they should take culinary arts courses.  As a student progresses through high school, they have more opportunities to enroll in Pathway Courses.  Westbrook High School recommends a student enroll in these Pathway Courses to enhance preparation for college and careers when their class schedule allows it.  Because students will be cohorted as much as possible in their required courses, students will still receive some degree of career exploration and should be encouraged to participate in Career Connections activities planned for the pathway.  

What if I just want my child to just take all of the Advanced Placement (AP) and dual enrollment courses they can during high school so they have a better chance of getting into a competitive college?  I think my child can do career exploration and find out what they want for a future career once they get into college?  Each of the career pathways offer students opportunities to enroll in AP and dual enrollment courses.   AP and dual enrollment courses are suggested as Other Recommended Electives for each of the Career Pathways Programs of Study.  In some career pathways, AP courses are recommended as Pathway Courses.  Students are encouraged to enroll in these course.  A major advantage of participating in career exploration during high school is that it doesn't cost anything!  When students explore careers during college, it often means they must switch majors.  Switching majors requires students to enroll in more and different college coursework and often means they aren't able to graduate on time in two or four years or they end up spending more money on tuition for the added courses.  

Are new courses being offered as a part of the Career Pathways structure?  New courses offered during the 2021-2022 school year include AP Chemistry, AP Language, AP Literature, Robotics and Automated Systems 1 and 2, and Principles of Computer Science.  AP Computer Science Principles, AP 2D Art and Design, and Basic Robotics & Design-Thinking will be added in 2022-2023. 

What if my career passion is not listed within one of the Westbrook High School Career Pathways?  Tell us about it!   Part of the benefit of the Career Pathways structure is personalized learning for our students. If a career idea or interest a student has is not directly aligned with our pathways, we will work to personalize a related pathway to meet that student’s needs, through electives, distance learning, or work-based learning opportunities. Our goal is to help 100 percent of our students find high school to be relevant to their individual passions.

Does cohorting students together mean my student will only get a chance to know a small set of students?  Students in Grades 9 and 10 will be cohorted in some of their core required courses, they have multiple opportunities to meet students who have selected other career clusters and pathways.  Students are assigned to advisory sessions by grade level and meet twice monthly with an advisory that stays with them for four years.  These advisories are not pathway specific.  Students across multiple pathways will be enrolled in many elective courses together since many Pathway Courses and Other Recommended Electives are recommended for students in multiple pathways.  Students from across multiple pathways will also be enrolled together in required courses like physical education, health, world languages, or senior project seminar. Of course, students interested in the many extracurricular activities offered at Westbrook High School will meet students from across multiple pathways.  

I have a question about how to enroll my student in courses using Powerschool.  Is there someone I can call?  Please call your student's counselor (Jill Britton or Sarah Cunningham).  You may also find the answer to your question using the following link:   PowerSchool registration 5.pdf 

How can I help my student think about a pathway selection?  Students in Grades 8 through 11 participate in career exploration lessons with the school's counselors who use Naviance-based lessons and surveys.  These Naviance lessons are designed to assist students in thinking about potential careers that interest them or use skills and knowledge students already have in place.  We recommend you log into Naviance with your students and discuss suggested careers.  For further assistance, please contact your student's school counselor.  You may also contact the school's Career/College Readiness Coordinator.