It is Time to Explore with Xplore! 

Northeast Ohio high school students have a fantastic opportunity to discover their passions and career aspirations through College Now’s Xplore program! Northeast Ohio school districts and College Now Greater Cleveland have come together to offer a unique experience for local high school students to expand their horizons and find a major or area of study that best fits their interests.

Xplore, first introduced last year as an Ohio Department of Education grant program to create and expand afterschool and summer learning opportunities, provides students with college and career readiness by exposing them to new heights in the college search process. Xplore aims to help students discover their passion and take a deep dive into potential majors that may interest them. In addition, the Xplore team offers students college admissions-based workshops and all-expense paid weekend trips that include campus visits. The Xplore program has hosted 290 students on trips to cities such as Baltimore, Chicago, Nashville, New York City, Washington D.C., among others.

“There is a low academic achievement that we are seeing in schools, but we know that there is a diminished interest in test prep as more [colleges] have become test-optional,” says Xplore program manager Danny Poslet. “But how do we inspire students?”

Xplore answers this question through the afterschool program, where students can dive deep into a meta major, a cluster of different college majors related to one another. This practice help students find interest in many other subject matters, which is vital to their future college endeavors. With recent changes in university requirements for college applications, state test preparation and major exploration are great ways for students to stand out while applying for college.

Out-of-state trips are the most influential factor of the program. They show students that numerous opportunities are attainable outside of Ohio. Based on the chosen meta major, students meet with professionals in their respective fields.

As for the most recent trip, students traveled to universities in Charlottesville and Richmond, Virginia. This trip included numerous activities, including a visit to the Shenandoah National Park, students listened to a park ranger share their career journey. Participants also encountered biological learning by going on a nature walk to discover the native species living in the parks. Moments like these allow students to see opportunities through hands-on experiences.

[The students] have exposure to these careers, they see it firsthand, and they know what it feels like, says Poslet. “It is a way for the students to be self-reflective, asking themselves, ‘Can I see myself doing this?’”

The program also caters to students who have not revealed their interests yet due to uncertainty about the opportunities available at various colleges. Poslet shared a notable example of a student who had an impactful experience with the program during their recent trip to New York City. While in the Big Apple, the group visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art as one of their excursions. Poslet recalled one of the students who was noticeably quiet and reserved throughout the program. As they admired the museum’s art, the student’s eyes lit up, and she exclaimed, “Oh, wow, I love this,” discovering her passion for art in that moment.

Xplore also brings students to institutions in and around Northeast Ohio. Recently, they visited numerous courtrooms in the Cleveland area, focusing on the social sciences meta major. The  scope of this fieldtrip was on potential law careers, and students had the opportunity to talk to Judge Deena Calabrese of the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas General Division. Additionally, the participants sat in the jury box and spoke with her bailiff and court reporter. Local excursions provide insight into the wide range of careers that are accessible    throughout the Greater Cleveland area.

“We could ask [the judge] questions such as How did you get here? Did you always know you wanted to be a judge?” says Poslet. “Those are the questions that the kids can ask. They gain a lot of insight to be like, ‘OK, I can do this too.’”

With the number of students, the Xplore program has already assisted, the program is eager to help many more in the Cleveland area and beyond. Xplore recently expanded to the Slavic Village to reach more students in Northeast Ohio.

Students interested in the Xplore program should visit the College Now Greater Cleveland Xplore page  for more information and watch for this year’s upcoming planned trips!