Bolivar High School hosted its inaugural “Decision Day,” on Friday, May 5th. It was an event at which 201 high school seniors announced their plans to enroll in college, seek career training, or enlist in the military following graduation. Missouri Governor Michael L. Parson and Commissioner of Education Margie Vandeven attended the event, along with families, educators, and community members, to celebrate students’ achievements and to emphasize the importance of ensuring every student graduates with a strong plan for success.
Bolivar High School’s Decision Day is also a celebration of the impact of rootEd Missouri, a statewide effort designed to help remove barriers to college and career success often faced by students in rural communities. A partnership between the national organization rootEd Alliance and Ozarks Technical Community College (OTC), rootEd Missouri places dedicated college and career advisors, called rootEd advisors, in rural schools to ensure every student has a strong plan following their high school graduation. rootEd advisors, working alongside school counselors, help students explore different career paths, identify and apply to best-fit post-high school options, and create a financial plan to ensure these options are within reach.
“We’re proud to join Bolivar High School seniors and our rootEd Alliance partners on this inaugural Decision Day to celebrate students’ plans after high school,” said Gov. Parson. “For Teresa and me, it’s all about helping the next generation to achieve their American Dream. Whether it’s going to college, joining the military, earning a credential, or going directly into the workforce, we want to make sure they have the tools to succeed, and rootEd Alliance helps us do just that. Congratulations to these students and students all across Missouri as they leave high school and forge ahead to live their American Dream.”
Decision Day marks the end of Bolivar High School’s first year of participation in rootEd Missouri. In the 2022-2023 school year, rootEd advisor Karla Goughnour had one-on-one meetings with all graduating seniors. As a result of her efforts, 100% of Bolivar’s Class of 2023 is graduating with a strong college or career plan. In addition, completion rates for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®)—an important step in the process to secure funding for college and career training—increased by 47% over last year.
A video highlighting stories of students at Bolivar High School can be viewed HERE.
“Today, we celebrate your hard work in laying the groundwork for your future,” said Byron D. Trott, chairman and co-CEO of BDT & MSD Partners, and chairman of rootEd Alliance. “As a small-town Missouri native, I am proud to see the state’s ongoing support of rural students, who face unique challenges in accessing opportunities for career training and education after high school. rootEd’s public-private partnership with the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education demonstrates how powerful dedicated college and career advising can be in setting students up for success after graduation.”
rootEd Missouri began as a pilot program in eight schools. In 2021, building on the success at those schools, the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education expanded it through a multi-year state grant program in 2021. Currently, 135 rural high schools across the state participate in rootEd Missouri.
“Missouri succeeds when we not only prepare students to graduate from high school but help them pave their own path to success,” Commissioner Vandeven said. “To do this, every student needs a strong plan and guided support. With the help of partners like rootEd Missouri, we are ensuring more students have access to that support. Today’s event is a testament to those efforts.”
Participating schools have seen impressive gains, according to the latest available data. In 2021, schools participating in rootEd Missouri saw college enrollment rates increase by 7.5% overall, and this year FAFSA completion rates increased by 20%.
“The upswing in college enrollment is encouraging. Most good jobs require some college education or training beyond high school,” said OTC Chancellor Dr. Hal Higdon. “A skilled workforce is the key to Missouri’s economic success.”
“The Bolivar School District is extremely honored to be a part of a program that is designed to give students opportunities after high school,” said Dr. Richard Asbill, superintendent of the Bolivar School District. “rootEd Missouri improved our ability to respond to student needs before entering college and career paths. It is important that we are providing students as many opportunities to achieve success after graduation that we can, so that they understand not only what it is like to be successful as a Liberator but to be successful in career and education.”
About rootEd Alliance:
Every student should graduate high school on a path to achieve career success and economic stability. rootEd Alliance places dedicated college and career advisors in rural high schools to work with all students to define and plan their futures, whether through a college degree, work-based learning, or military service. Launched in 2018 and now operating in Missouri, Texas, Tennessee, and Idaho, 183 rootEd advisors have served 30,000 students at 189 high schools. This approach is working: in the 2021 school year, rootEd schools saw a nearly 11% increase in postsecondary enrollment, compared to a national decline of 6%. rootEd Alliance is made possible by a group of philanthropists and family and founder-led businesses, convened by BDT & MSD Partners. For more information, please visit: https://rootEdAlliance.org.