School to Career program

SCHOOL TO CAREER: John Harris, guidance counselor at Wahoo High School, works with student Klarice Waage on school to career options. (Staff Photo by Chris Legband)

WAHOO – After 36 years in high school education Joe Sajevic said he was done.

But he wasn’t.

“I was still involved in education, supervising student teachers through University of Nebraska at Omaha for four years,” he said.

Sajevic enjoyed that position as it was much like his coaching background. The only difference was that he was coaching future teachers.

“I worked at the job until the Southeast Community College (SCC) position presented itself,” he said. “I really like working with students, again, and in a lot of ways, it’s like being in the classroom again.”

Sajevic is coordinator of the Southeast Nebraska Career Academy Partnership (SENCAP), which began in 2008. It gives high school juniors and seniors in Southeast Community College’s 15-county service area the opportunity to take dozens of courses in areas of interest ranging from criminal justice to business to construction and agriculture, said John Harris Wahoo High School counselor.

“Those classes are primarily on line,” Harris said. “What they get in addition to the course work is the opportunity to be a part of a job shadow, a field trip in their interest area, a strength finder basement to see if their strength and interests line up professionally. They get these types of hands on experience which will prepare them for their secondary education. “

Sajevic, in his third year as a coordinator for the Northern Region, visits seven high schools at least once a week. During these visits, Sajevic tries to touch base with between 150 to 170 students every week. 

Sajevic said he enjoys getting to know each student and their future goals and plans, as well as working with them one-on-one.

“I work closely with the guidance counselors in each school with registration, teaching the SENCAP Career Portfolio (mostly online) and making sure students stay on task and caught up with assignments in this portfolio,” he said.

Sajevic also sets up field trips in each career area and accompanies the students on them.

“I advise students on classes they should take,” he said. “They can knock out a lot of the general education courses required at many colleges and save a bunch of money, as well as taking some classes in a career field that may interest them.”

Sajevic also said they try to have one field trip every semester for each career area.

“I also help them brain-storm possible job shadow opportunities, as the students are required to complete one job shadow each semester,” he said.

For most students, Sajevic said this is their first experience taking a college level class, so he wants to assist them.

“A large part of the program is also teaching them to self-advocate and accept responsibilities, serving as a transition to a post-secondary experience,” he said.

In addition to these duties, Sajevic serves as a liaison between SCC and his schools, keeping both sides informed of whatever may come up.

“Along with this, I monitor students’ actual SCC course grade throughout the semester and report these to the counselors,” he said. “I try to send them the portfolio grades one week and the SCC grades the next week starting in about week three of the semester.”

Sajevic believes that the SENCAP program is a great way for students to start to experience college so they’ll be ready to transition to that life in the near future.

“SCC does their part, as all of these courses are offered to the students at half price tuition, significantly reducing the cost of a degree for the student and family,” he said. “In addition, several of my schools even pay for the half price tuition if the student passes the SCC course and the portfolio with a ‘C’ or better.”

According to Sajevic, the goal for the program is to continue to increase the number of students in each area that are participating.

“It’s a great deal all the way around,” he said. “The cost, beginning the transition to college expectations and responsibilities, self -avocation, as the student will be on their own when away at school.”

Harris said he appreciates Sajevic; that he is the man “behind the curtain.”

“Joe really is the coordinator behind the scenes. He brings it all together and makes it all happen,” Harris said.

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