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Sierra High effort helps teens develop 10-year plans & how to achieve them
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Sierra High junior Mitch Casetta goes over his 10-year plan with Manteca Rotarians Peter Rietkerk, left, and Sam Ahmad. - photo by GLENN KAHL/The Bulletin

Mitchell Casetta has a plan.
The Sierra High junior is working toward becoming a nurse — preferably with a specialty in anesthesiology — with a fall back career option as a lawyer.
And while relatives who are in the nursing field have provided him with an idea of what is needed to reach that goal and what nursing jobs entail, he credits the Manteca Unified endeavor dubbed “Get Focused, Stay Focused”  with helping him understand exactly what he must do to obtain his goals.
In Casetta’s case he has mapped out a tentative education plan after he graduates Sierra High as well as organized his time better now to prepare himself for post-secondary challenges he needs to tackle. The plan he’s developed includes a commitment to study more and budgets a targeted time to spend on his education, with family and with friends so he doesn’t lose sight of his goals.
Casetta was among a number of Sierra High students who shared with the Manteca Rotary Thursday during their noon meeting at Ernie’s Rendezvous Room how Stay Focused has helped them map out 10-year plans, establish realistic goals, and have a better grasp of the commitment it will take to reach their goals.
“It changes (students’) understanding of what we are asking them to do,” said Sierra High teacher Rachelle Fast. “They no longer see getting a good grade as a need just to graduate but as a key to achieve their goals (beyond high school).”
To do that, the program requires each student to make a 10-year plan that includes objectives such as where they want to be in 10 years in terms of their personal life and what lifestyle they’d like to have. That includes their goals such as if they want to be married and have kids, what type of car they want to own and where they want to live. It also involves assigning a price tag to those goals.
Fast said the research students are required to do on their goals can be an eye opener.
“They find out owning a Tesla and living in Malibu means they will have to have to earn a minimum of $187,000 a year,” Fast said.
But when that is matched with the earning power of their career objective they discover it is likely an unrealistic goal prompting them to rethink things and adjust their plans accordingly.
The program also helps students to get a firm grasp of a cost of a degree or vocational training to prepare for a specific career. The goal is to have them avoid piling up college debt that would financially crush them for years — if not decades — once they land a job in their chosen field of the projected pay isn’t enough to cover their education debt and their living costs.
That information coupled with exploration of financial aid, scholarships, less expensive college options and such helps students grasp the need to have a handle on the costs of their education and to make educated choices.
Fast said college has become too competitive and two expensive “to flounder” taking classes for several years before deciding what you want to do.
She noted the program — which targets all students and not just the 20 percent that typically go into a four-year college out of high school but also those aiming at vocation training, community colleges, the military or going directly into the workforce — is designed to empower students so they have control and know how to access resources.
Fast pointed to the high dropout rate of students who go to a community college out of high school because they didn’t educate themselves about careers, the education it involves and even whether they would like what they are going to do.
It is why the program also incorporates job shadowing and mentoring efforts such as question and answer periods during the school lunch period with people who are working in particular fields and volunteer to spend 20 minutes meeting with students.
Fast noted students will say they want to become a pediatrician because they love working with children but sometimes just spending a day in a pediatrician’s office changes their mind.
“If you want to be a pediatrician you’d better want to deal with crying kids and giving them shots,” she said.
Get Focused was started as a way to build a bridge from the eighth grade to high school so incoming students wouldn’t waste a year or so trying to understand not just graduation requirements but electives and courses of study that will help them reach goals.
It is wedded with the Link Crew effort.
Stay Focused builds on the initial effort. It helps students not only make a plan for their life and understand costs, what it takes to achieve it and how making the most out of what they are offered in high school can put them on the path they want to pursue but to stay focused on their objectives.
It also involves parents with the process.
Fast said volunteers are needed to help conduct mock interviews, to allow students to job shadow, and for 20-minute listen and learn lunches at Sierra High.
Fast, the Sierra High life skills teacher, can be reached at (209) 858-7410 extension 59414.

To contact Dennis Wyatt, email