Counselors should help students explore their career opportunities and work toward their career goals. This study examined the effectiveness of the Heritage-Based Career Counseling Program (HBCCP) at a rural junior high school. Rural junior high school students face academic and lifestyle challenges that restrict their education and career development, such as being economically disadvantaged (Lin & Wang, 2017; Mahuteau & Mavromaras, 2014). Studies have found that being economically disadvantaged is a risk factor for dropping out of senior high school (Mahuteau & Mavromaras, 2014). Yu and Hwang (2016) found that education level, employment status, and income were lower among indigenous people in rural areas than among those in urban areas. Huang (2018) indicated that economically disadvantaged indigenous students exhibited lower goal setting and volition in academic learning than those who were not economically disadvantaged. Likewise, our previous research found that economically disadvantaged indigenous students benefitted from a long-term school-based counseling support program. This counseling support program not only supported them during middle school but also taught them how to develop a “never give up” attitude to increase their career volition and high school graduation prospects (Lin & Wang, 2015). Few studies have investigated career counseling programs for rural junior high school students in Taiwan. The main purpose of this study is to explore the effectiveness of the Heritage-Based Career Counseling Program (HBCCP) in successful graduation from high schools or stable attendance at a rural junior high school. The HBCCP is run in accordance with the principles of University Social Responsibility (USR) and has received financial support from a private enterprise and a foundation since 2009. The HBCCP was established 7 years ago. The research design was based on Practice-Oriented Research (POR). In total, 52 junior high school students (25 boys and 27 girls) and 33 HBCCP graduates (19 males and 14 females) voluntarily participated in the study. The HBCCP can be roughly divided into three overlapping cyclical stages: (1) documentary materials and techniques are used to form links between graduates and students, (2) a series of “Fighting Challenge Workshops,” where graduates share how they adapted to life in senior high school, are conducted, and (3) graduates share certain specific adaptive dilemmas, their coping processes, and other tips for success. The results indicated that the following: 1. The major difficulties that graduates faced upon entering senior high school can be categorized into three main domains: academic, interpersonal, and financial. Graduates who developed coping strategies for dealing with the challenges they faced in high school shared their strategies with the students. Strategies for coping with financial difficulties included applying for scholarships, working part time, and saving money. Strategies for coping with being a minority included proving oneself with action. Strategies for adapting to a new academic situation included having self-discipline, finding a partner, and not giving up. Strategies for dealing with career indecision included exploring one’s interests and pursuing one’s dreams. In the first and second stages of the HBCCP, graduates shared their frustrations and difficulties, how they overcame difficulties, such as not giving up, and the positive aspects of completing their senior high school diploma. In the third stage, the graduates presented their tips and solutions. When they were students, they felt excluded because of their indigenous background. They felt estranged due to language differences, stereotypes, and prejudice from classmates and teachers. Their solution was to study harder to prove themselves. They also encountered difficulties studying, particularly a lack of motivation to study. Their solutions included having self-discipline, setting small goals, and rewarding themselves upon accomplishing goals. They studied together with their peers and never gave up. Finally, graduates who had difficulties choosing career paths suggested that students explore their interests and start working toward their dream job right away. 2. The Heritage-Based Career Counseling Program was adopted by the model of “students leading students,” which involved senior graduates share their tips and solutions of high school challenges with younger students. The graduates acted as role models and inspired younger students to build a strong will to overcome their future career. Young students also expected themselves to be future role models for next generation. The HBCCP has taken advantage of the positive influence effects of the “students leading students” model. 3. This program has increased their high school attendance rates as well as graduation rates (from 17% to 78%) from high schools during last 7 years. Moreover, motivation to complete high school has been improved too. In conclusion, the HBCCP provided a forum whereby graduates were able to demonstrate successful career models and motivate students to pursue their career development. In addition, the students appreciated the graduates’ demonstrations. The results also revealed that the positive effects of HBCCP accumulate over time. The long-term school-based counseling intervention provided assistance with career planning in a rural area. In the first stage, the HBCCP facilitated an emotional link between the graduates and students. In the second stage, a series of “Fighting Challenge Workshops” were held. In the third stage, the graduates provided unique strategies for coping with the special challenges faced by these students. Students developed the spirit of never giving up. In summary, three key factors helped these students. First, engaging with role models who were from the same background as the students and who were successful engendered feelings of hope and a sense of motivation among the students. Second, the graduates and students had common background and similar experiences which created a sense of universality. Third, the graduates provided specific problem-solving strategies which were more fit to their specific challenges. Overall, the current study demonstrated that the HBCCP is different from other existing career guidance programs. More specifically, the HBCCP has integrated ecological and environmental factors to respond to the special needs of rural teenagers. The ecological and environmental factors included academic difficulties and economic disadvantages. The HBCCP has connected the students with social and cultural resources to support them. The graduates provided concrete tips and information to support the students and to encourage the students to complete high school. The HBCCP is unlike traditional career guidance programs, which focus on exploring career interests, personality, and developing career goals. Future research and the implication of the findings are discussed in the manuscript.
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