One of three school counselors at Polk County Middle School, Langlee Garrett spends her days helping students manage the transition from elementary to middle school as well as help prepare them for the move to high school.

While still focused on the students’ day-to-day needs at PCMS, Garrett also wanted to motivate students to begin thinking about life after high school, to see the many opportunities that await graduates of Polk County Schools.

So Garrett, a 2002 Polk County High School graduate, decided to reach out to other alumni, to build a project showcasing the careers occupied by district graduates. The result is a project entitled Wolverines Around The World and a bulletin board that now adorns a wall at Polk County Middle.

What began as a simple idea before the school year evolved into a project in which more than a dozen alums, to date, have participated.

Wolverines Around The World: Graduates share updates, offer advice

“This summer I attended a class called Crayons to College – A K12 Approach to College and Career Readiness,” Garrett said. “This class was offered through the American School Counselor conference and was funded by the Polk County Community Foundation. One main idea I took away from this class was getting alumni involved from your local high school to show students a broader picture of life outside the area they live in.

“When I got home, I decided to ask friends who lived outside of Polk County to give me information about themselves and advice for middle schoolers. The primary goal was to expose students to different careers around the country that current Polk County High School alumni have.”

The bulletin board features contributions from Polk County graduates in a wide range of careers and living all across the United States. Similar to the Flat Stanley project, Garrett had each alumnus take a photo with a Wolverine to represent their Polk County background as well as answer questions about the importance of their education and advice they would share with students.

“I was overwhelmed with the response I got from alumni willing to send me a photo of themselves and answer the questions I sent them,” Garrett said. “I had a variety of careers represented. I also thought that I would get a variety of answers from alumni responses, but found there was a common theme. Alumni discussed how the foundation through Polk County Schools prepared them for life outside of college and in the workforce. They were all grateful for the opportunities they were given during their time in Polk County Schools.”

Located in the main hallway at Polk Middle, the bulletin board has quickly grabbed the attention of students as they move to and from classes.

“You never know what middle schoolers will take away from a project like this,” Garrett said. “My hope is it will let them see how big the world is and how there are so many options for them.

“If it inspires one student, then I feel like this is a success. The alumni also sent in some creative photos and it has caught the eyes of several students when I observe them in the hallways.”

Garrett hopes to continue the project next year and would love to see more alumni take part, even if it means expanding the scope of the project beyond Polk Middle’s halls.

“I hope next year I can get even more people involved,” Garrett said. “This is my first year and I wanted to start by sharing the information on a bulletin board.

“If Polk County alumni are reading this and want to be involved, they can contact me through email at langleegarrett@polkschools.org. I do not have a plan for next year, but I do plan to expand if possible and expose students even more.”