Preparing Students for Life After High School - Carolina Country

Preparing Students for Life After High School

Kenan Fellow Mindy Thornlow is helping students transition into adulthood

By Mindy Thornlow

Mindy Thornlow

Mindy Thornlow

When I first applied for the Kenan Fellows Program for teacher leadership, I was thinking of how to help my students who just wanted to get out of school and go to work.

I felt that the pressures placed on children to be college-bound made them view college education as a one-size-fits-all solution. I am glad that more and more people are recognizing that this limited perspective does not address the needs of all students.

As a child, I saw how my dad and mom worked hard and succeeded. They did this without the benefit of a traditional American college education. My dad had no high school diploma, and my mom held a business degree from another country. While I celebrate all my students who are college-bound, I often feel the need to provide more relevant possibilities for those who are ready to go to work. It’s my job to reach all my students and help them on their respective paths.

While I celebrate all my students who are college-bound... It’s my job to reach all my students and help them on their respective paths.

Fast forward to my Kenan Fellowship, and I can honestly say in almost 17 years as an educator, this was the best team-building professional development I have experienced. The Fellowship taught how to apply newfound knowledge with the young minds in my classroom. Kenan Fellows introduced me to the network of electric cooperatives and how they work during my three-week internship with Asheboro-based Randolph EMC (REMC).

I had one of the best mentors I could have hoped for — Nicole Arnold. Nicole works in the Communications Department and was in my interview during the selection process with Michael Trent, director of Innovative Energy Solutions at REMC. I mentioned in this interview that my main reason for applying for the fellowship was to benefit my students, so I could help them learn about opportunities outside of two-year and four-year college degrees.

Nicole organized a complete schedule that allowed me to experience the whole purpose of a cooperative. REMC staffers taught me so much, including the finance end of things, how to get supplies across the cooperatives, emergency management during crisis, what the line crews do and how to get critical certifications, to name a few. I am excited to get this information out to the students and share with them what could be in store after high school if they pursue a career with electric cooperatives.

As I roll out my curriculum this school year, I plan to show my students how electricity comes into their homes and “makes things happen,” as the kids would say. I also want them to see electric cooperatives as a career path over a wide range of fields. There are various career possibilities available for those with university or community college educations, and there are positions for those students who may not be interested in pursuing a traditional college education at this time.

The Kenan Fellowship experience allowed me to be honored and treated as the “best of the best” in the education field. This opportunity would not have happened without my students, and they will be the chief ones to benefit from my fellowship. The Kenan Fellowship has helped me fulfill my goal — to help my students make informed decisions in their upcoming adult life after high school. The Kenan Fellows supercharged my mission to shape these young minds. I am so grateful for this experience.

About the Author

Mindy Thornlow is a science teacher at Trinity High School in Randolph County and is a 2022-23 Kenan Fellow (

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