She’s helping Southold students far beyond the classroom

Some students may need help crafting a resume. Others may need help identifying a program they would be applying to in college. Some are trying to secure working papers.

In the Southold School District, Nicole Helf is the go-to person to assist students in ways beyond just academics. In her role as transition and career coordinator, Ms. Helf had previously focused on assisting students with an individualized education program, which is geared toward kids with disabilities. 

“Towards the end of last year, there was kind of a big push from parents and students and even staff within the building and the board of education that they would like more of this and not necessarily just for those students with IEPs, but all students within the district,” Ms. Helf said.

The program expanded this year to allow Ms. Helf, a Southold alumna, to offer assistance to all students in the district and help them prepare for various tasks largely centered around life after school.

The transition assistance had previously been outsourced to an agency until Ms. Helf began working with students who had an individualized education program part-time in 2019. She now works full-time in the district in her role.

“I have students that come to find me for various reasons,” Ms. Helf said. “I have students that come to me for jobs, you know, filling out a job application … making sure that they get their working papers … constantly updating the job board, I push into different classes to do different lessons … it encapsulates a lot.”

Ms. Helf also developed a career exploration site as a resource for students when trying to decide on a career path.

“So when students take an interest inventory, and it provides them with what their career cluster is, they can then go to the website, and look at the different videos on there, in that career cluster, so they can kind of learn a little bit about it,” she said.

The site focuses on local alumni. Those alumni are available for students to ask questions about their career path, Ms. Helf said.

“All those people on there are available as a resource if they have further questions, or, you know, would like to ask them something about their career path,” Ms. Helf said. “That’s something that’s ever-evolving; I’m constantly uploading new videos to that as well.”

She said early planning is also important. She visits the elementary school to discuss things like setting meaningful goals and to identify the children’s interests and talents.

“I think it was kind of recognized by our administration, and the Board of Education that if we started this much earlier, if we started this process of students identifying what their interests are … it kind of would pave their way for them being able to choose more meaningful classes to take because it would kind of be able to steer their interests in the correct direction.”

Ms. Helf said that the community response to this program being expanded has been “wonderful.”

“I’m thankful that the Board of Education and the administration believe that transitions should be for all students,” she said. “And I do feel like our students [are] moving forward having these additional lessons to kind of steer their path even at the elementary level, and start learning about themselves more versus just curriculum is only going to be better in the long run for our students.”