Last month, Warren Township Superintendent Tim Hanson debuted a new pathway to help enable students to build their soft skills throughout their educational careers, starting from the very beginning: kindergarten.

          “Schools typically do not focus on soft skills like communication or collaboration, however, these two skills are a necessity to be successful in and out of a school setting,” Hanson said. “In Warren, we would provide learning experiences around these skills from PK-12.”

          The unique goal of the program contrasts the ones made in the past. Whereas schools in the past have been hardwired to help students in pathways for specifically one line of work or have been designed only for better test scores, the Journey of a Graduate board is planning to change the sight of education for the future and help students become versatile in any line of work with transferable skills.

          “JOG is not an "off-the-shelf" program, but rather a philosophy and vision to promote a set of skills and competencies that are identified by Warren stakeholders as important for our students and community,” Chief Human Resource Officer, Brian Simkins said. “It will serve as a sort of backdrop against which all future teaching and learning will take place.”

          Since the concept is relatively new, Hanson started by arranging a diverse group of people ranging from kindergarten principals and school board members to high school students to get the perspective of the population the plan would affect. After he did this, he then scheduled for the first meeting to introduce the conversation and outline a plan of action for the future of Warren Township.

          “I asked my leadership team to identify people who would bring a diverse perspective to this work. I was looking for diversity in age, race, gender, life experience and thinking,” Hanson said. “

          These educators, students and board members are working on coming up with different traits to instill in students and making sure it reaches them at a young age. These traits, so far, include adaptability, creativity and problem solving.

          “Although learning facts is still important, to fully prepare students to meet their futures the mission of schools can no longer be to just ‘get through the curriculum’ or ‘memorize facts from the textbook.’ We must prepare students to create ideas and solutions for products, services and problems that have yet to be identified,” Simkins said. “Rather than having our students memorize material from textbooks or simply Google facts, we want our students to become analysts and investigate how to work with knowledge they gather to solve complex problems.”

          Although the program will do its best to reach high school and middle school students, its services are based in helping the children who are just starting out in school. Whereas the graduation class of 2019 focused on obtaining skills for a specific field of study or earning the grades they need in order to graduate and continue their education, the class of 2032 will be focusing on becoming more innovative and gaining the skills that employers are looking for rather than stressing over the prerequisites.

          “JOG will help stimulate this new learning and create the settings in which it can thrive. As leader of Human Resources for Warren, I also hope that we can provide the professional support for our teachers to successfully teach these skills. In the future, we won't be doing away with the concept of working for a living, but we'll need to ‘upskill’ our students so they can succeed,” Simkins aid.

          “I believe our JOG will not only redefine our purpose, but it will also rejuvenate our students, teachers, and community,” said Hanson