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Connecting Cass County aims to guide teens into adulthood, education, careers

June 21, 2022 at 10:00 p.m.
Atlanta Middle School Library is filled with students this summer attending a special seminar to assist their transitioning to adulthood, college and careers. Many of these students are part of AISD’s summer Blast program. Leader and creator of the nonprofit is Dr. Robert Harper, center. (Staff photo by Neil Abeles)

ATLANTA, Texas -- Marietta, Texas, native Dr. Robert Harper is returning to his home environment to offer an opportunity for young people to receive specialized guidance in transitioning to adulthood and success in college and careers.

The first session of Connecting Cass County began Monday at the Atlanta Middle School Library with more than 30 students and six adult leaders attending. Further sessions will continue this month and in July at Atlanta High School and Linden-Kildare High School.

The outreach effort is being made possible through Dr. Harper's nonprofit program called The HOPE Initiative.

"Recently my initiative was awarded a $54,000 grant from the Hogg Foundation for Mental Health to provide college, career and life readiness for students living in Cass County. We were one of 77 applicants to receive funding," Dr. Harper said.

Over the next two years, the initiative will engage with middle and high school students between the ages of 14-19 and provide them with skill development, health and wellness activities, career pathway knowledge and workforce exposure.

As an example of one of the personal skill projects the students were to undertake is that of the "elevator" speech with which Dr. Harper opened Monday's session.

"Do you know what an elevator speech is?" Dr. Harper began, with the answer usually being "No."

"Well, consider you are on the first floor of an elevator," Dr Harper continues, "and you are going to the sixth floor. With you is someone you need to make a good impression upon. You don't have much time, but you need to network with this person, perhaps make a request."

In the short time from floor one to six, you will need a speech to give to the busy person that is a summary of your credentials, who you are and what you do ... what your request is.

"It's a networking tool, and so important to one's success. It's an elevator speech to make an impression."

For the class training, Dr. Harper said he will give the young people a framework, and they must write their elevator speech and memorize it.

"Then, we have adult mentors who will role-play with you as you give your elevator speech. We want to make sure you know who you are, your learning style, personality type and something about careers good for you. Once you find this out, you will be able to give your elevator speech. You will be able to sell yourself."

As another example of the kind and quality of experience the young people will be having in the seminar is a look at the first day's outline of topics to be covered.

Starting at 9 a.m.:

• Personal strength assessment

• Personality type assessment

• Learning style assessment

• Career cluster assessment.


• Understanding the ACT Test

• Q&A and Dismissal 2 p.m.

Thursday's session will focus more upon education success. Its range of topics are (1) Readiness Profile Overview; (2) ACT Diagnostic English; (3) ACT Diagnostic Math; (4) ACT Diagnostic Reading: and (5) ACT Diagnostic Science.

Dr. Harper said he hopes the beginning of this initiative in Atlanta and Linden will result in other school districts in Cass County joining in. He also hopes to encourage individuals and businesses to join the effort

"The goal is to help young people transition to adulthood and with college and career readiness. I'm calling it a call to action in Cass County."

Dr. Harper then related a local experience when he was approached by the Atlanta High basketball team coach concerned for two or three of his players who had asked for help with their ACT scores. The coach thought of the HOPE Initiative and Cass County Connection.

"Can I talk to your team?" Dr. Harper said he asked. "Why not all the team players? We can help all the girls."

The coach just loved that, Dr.Harper said.

"And so here we are."

If other schools and leaders are looking for assistance with the HOPE Initiative, Dr Harper said just to give him a call, and "We'll start the enrolling process."

photo The sign of the nonprofit created by Marietta native Dr. Robert Harper to serve the individual who might not otherwise have access to college, career and life readiness. (Staff photo by Neil Abeles)

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