A COOL Revamp

Changes to Program Grants Students More Opportunities, Flexibility

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Estefani Rios

Expanding the senior-exclusive program, COOL Week, COOL Experiences combines both virtual and hands-on career exploration. Transition Coordinator Chriss Hexter said that both upperclassmen and underclassmen can find benefits in the program, especially with the ability to attend multiple COOL Experience offerings. “A unique opportunity this year that hasn’t been offered to kiddos in the past, aside from the grade levels that it’s open to other than grade 12, is that they can participate in more than one,” Hexter said. “I totally think kids should, if and when, there are opportunities to participate or attend more than one, that they should participate in more than one.”

Estefani Rios, Editor-in-Chief

Every year seniors have the opportunity to shadow a professional in the career they are most interested in during Career Opportunities On Location week (COOL Week) in the spring semester. However as of this year, this opportunity is being offered to a larger range of students and under the new name, COOL Experiences. 

COOL Experiences includes the traditional hands-on work, now known as COOL on-location and COOL excursion, as well as COOL convos, webinar and collaboration.

Transition Coordinator Chriss Hexter said that the groundwork for the change to the program began a couple of years ago, pre-COVID, and that the pandemic only happened to correspond with the modifications. 

“Planning to revamp COOL and the COOL experience had nothing to do with COVID, it just happened to coincide with COVID,” Hexter said. “We’ve been talking about it for a couple of years. ‘How are we going to revamp COOL so it hits a broader audience, so it hits more kids at earlier levels, so you kind of have those experiences before you declare a college major, before you apply to college?’ It seems like COVID was a determining factor, it really wasn’t, it just happened at the exact same time.” 

Considering the benefits COOL would have for underclassmen and businesses giving the go ahead to open experiences to them, the move from a single week of career exploration was expanded. According to Hexter, the new offerings can greatly benefit juniors as they figure out their potential careers and schooling beyond the high school level. 

“We’ve always done COOL week for just seniors, and this year a lot of our business partners are saying ‘Hey you can open it up to juniors this year,’” Hexter said. “It’s my opinion that juniors would benefit just as much from this as seniors, if not more, because juniors often haven’t declared a major, obviously, because they haven’t applied to college yet. While seniors in January of their senior year they’ve already applied to the colleges, they’ve probably already declared some version of a compulsory mayor, so I think this is best suited for the juniors.” 

Although more hands-on experiences will be offered to the upperclassmen, Hexter said that the COOL convos and webinars can be just as valuable to freshmen and sophomores as they plan the rest of their high school careers. 

“I definitely think kiddos should take the opportunity to ask the questions that might be stuck in their heads,” Hexter said. “If they don’t know much about a particular career field, they can ask those questions. A unique opportunity this year that hasn’t been offered to kiddos in the past, aside from the grade levels that it’s open to other than grade 12, is that they can participate in more than one. I totally think kids should, if and when, there are opportunities to participate or attend more than one, that they should participate in more than one and ask the questions because you might get different answers from different business partners.” 

As the program continues to develop, Hexter said that hands-on career exploration is currently limited due to the pandemic and dangers of sending students to different businesses. Despite being constrained, Hexter said that an alternative would be to allow students to shadow a person they often come in close contact with, however, no definitive decision has been made yet. 

“We’ve had some students who’ve asked and we have to go up the chain of command on this,” Hexter said. “There are liabilities involved in us sending a student into a true COOL week hands-on experience and if that student gets COVID. We are working toward that and hopefully, we will work in the future going back to that if we aren’t able to do it this year. Our goal is of course to go back to multiple options so the COOL convos, the COOL excursions, going on field trips, etcetera.”

Hexter strongly encourages all students, both underclassmen and upperclassmen, to pay attention to the upcoming sessions offered through COOL Experiences. 

“I do think it’s really important that kiddos start paying attention to it and just attending and listening to the questions that are asked [or] asking the questions they may have,” Hexter said.  “It might help them pick their courses in the future at the high school level as well as determine what colleges they want to apply to, perhaps what their major would be; it might also have some opportunities for internships. If students aren’t familiar with it and just want to check it out, just to see what the whole COOL experience is about, it would be advantageous.” 

For more information about COOL Experiences visit the College and Career website or contact Mrs. Hexter. Information about upcoming COOL Experiences offerings can be found here or by signing up for the COOL Experiences Remind by texting @CPHSCOOL to 81010.

This month COOL Experiences opportunities include

  • Feb. 8, 9,11, 12-  Texas Ortho Physical Therapy COOL Convo (junior and seniors only)
  • Feb. 11- Erskine & Blackburn COOL Convo (Law)
  • Feb. 16- NOAA – Meteorology & Emergency Management COOL Convo
  • Feb. 18- Cedar Park Middle School Choir COOL Convo (juniors and seniors only)
  • Feb. 18- American Constructors COOL convo (juniors and seniors only)
  • Feb. 22- NOAA – IT & Electronics COOL Convo (juniors and seniors only)
  • Feb. 23- Samsung COOL Webinar