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Teacher Rachelle Welander, dressed in a red shirt, sits at her desk and smiles at a guest speaker talking to her class.

What can a law firm recruiter teach a group of middle school students, who are at least a decade away from entering law school? A lot of things, if you ask Key Peninsula Middle School (KPMS) AVID Teacher Rachelle Welander. 

Welander instructs 7th and 8th grade students on what she calls “hard” and “soft” skills during AVID class. AVID stands for “Advancement Via Individual Determination,” and is a course many students take from middle school through high school. The Peninsula School District offers AVID at KPMS and Peninsula High School as a college readiness system of support for students to increase their awareness, and their access to college and career success. AVID uses research-based strategies and curriculum to develop students’ critical thinking, literacy, and math skills. 

Teacher Rachelle Welander, dressed in a red shirt, sits at her desk and smiles at a guest speaker talking to her class.

“We work on a variety of soft skills needed for any career path they may choose,” Welander said. “In the AVID class (students) are held accountable for organization, communication skills, timeliness, oral speaking skills, how to take notes and use them, and a variety of skills that fall under career and college readiness. The kids learn how to talk to their teachers and other adults as well as how to handle conflicts and conflicting opinions.”

On Friday, May 6, Welander’s class was visited by Katryn Whitney, a Recruiting Manager for Emerald Search Partners. Whitney focuses on recruiting recent college graduates into positions at local law firms. 

“A lot of the time I feel that when I get young people who are applying for positions, they don't have a real roadmap for what they should be doing. I feel that if they had a little bit of the information that I give (potential clients) … back at this earlier stage then they could set themselves up for success a little bit better,” Whitney said. “With this age group, I try to tie it into the soft skills. These are things that you can tangibly work on now; work ethic, punctuality, attention to detail,  and organization. These are going to help them now and set them up for success later.” 

A woman with black curly hair dressed in business casual stands in front of a whiteboard speaking with hand gestures

KPMS students asked Whitney questions such as “what do you look for on a resume?”, “what will make me stand out from the rest?”, “What kind of income should I work towards if I want to live in Seattle?” 

For Welander, these are the questions she helps students with every class to help them find success at school, at their first job, and in their future careers. 

“This group is very much a family. They are all very different. But I've seen a lot of growth personally and in their skills and ability to communicate with each other and with teachers. It’s my favorite thing,” Welander said. 

Families can learn more about AVID classes at KPMS and PHS at www.psd401.net/learning/avid.

A middle school student with long brown hair and a black puffy jacket sits at a desk and listens to a guest speaker
A student in a Peninsula High School sweatshirt with short blond hair leans on their arm while listening at a desk
A middle school student dressed in a red shirt and gray jacket with glasses sits and listens at a desk to a guest speaker
A middle school student with long hair in a black sweatshirt, with a purple gift bag, sits at a desk and listens to a speaker
A female middle school student sits at a desks and smiles at the camera during her AVID class.
Students, some wearing face masks, sit at their desks and listen to a guest speaker during their class.
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