The room was abuzz with Oregon High School seniors and juniors telling community members and business people what they were going to do with their futures.

Some of that planning was guided by what they took away from their Senior Seminar course.

Students were paired with two adults for their capstone discussions Wednesday, June 5 – one business or community figure, and an educator. The adults asked the students questions like, “How do you feel ready for your next steps?” and “Which skills and abilities from your high school experience do you think will help you after graduation?”

One student, Abby Rau, interviewed with superintendent Brian Busler and Anna Petrie of Pure Integrity Homes, Inc.

“While I was very nervous going into the discussion, once I was talking to the interviewers, it was as if it were a normal conversation,” Rau told the Observer. “I had nothing to worry about because what we discussed was my story, everything that I had worked on up to that moment.”

Sara Kissling, business education and information technology teacher and academic and career planning coordinator, has taught the Senior Seminar course since 2017. The capstone discussions are like the punctuation mark for students to reflect on what they’ve learned during the class, she said.

Kissling said the students learn financial literacy – how to budget, how to deal with student loans, how to do a labor market analysis on jobs, how to compare colleges, how to build a resume and even how to discuss finances with parents.

The students also write an autobiography about themselves and a biography about a famous person they admire, which is part of a unit on “grit” and “growth mindset,” which encourages self-reflection. Senior Seminar even features a unit on resilience – how to combat negative self-talk or “the inner critic” and anxiety about failure or rejection.

“I’m amazed at how revealing they are,” Kissling said.

She said the class helps her connect with students on a deeper and more personal level, which in turn helps the students realize it’s okay to be vulnerable and express themselves. They undergo reality checks when they go over budget or find that a career doesn’t offer as much money as they would like, and Kissling said she is there to guide them through every step of it.

While the class remains an elective, she said she hopes all students at OHS consider taking it.

Rau had said Senior Seminar posed some challenges for her, but they weren’t anything she couldn’t overcome.

“The most challenging thing about this class was when we were assigned to come up with a budget,” she said. “This project caused me to really evaluate if I had a strong rationale for the career path I would potentially be going down.”

But Rau said that hasn’t stopped her from wanting to pursue her goals – exactly what Kissling wants students to take from the class, she said.

“This class has shown me that no matter what path I go down, I have the tools to be successful,” Rau said. “Having a growth mindset no matter the circumstance will lead me to greater things.”

Email Emilie Heidemann at emilie.heidemann@wcinet.com or follow her on Twitter at @HeidemannEmilie.