Community Column: Life after high school, keeping PaCE in 2023

Steven Wrobleski, superintendent at La Salle-Peru High School

My dad graduated from La Salle-Peru High School in 1966. He had a talent for working with his hands – especially if it had to do with machines.

His senior year he earned the best machining student award for the creation of a steam engine, which now has a prominent location under the window in my office. Naturally, its component parts are red and green. Hook an air compressor to it and the wheel magically turns, making a rhythmic thump-thump-thump sound. Sunstrand Corporation in Peru hired my dad before his graduation in June. My mom still has the picture from the La Salle NewsTribune announcing his new position along with Sundstand’s other talented students hired from the Illinois Valley. Scan any May or June issues of the local papers in the 1960s and 1970s and you will find regular announcements of local factories hiring students into good paying apprentice jobs right out of high school.

I am sure some reading this now are thinking, “Those were great times. Too bad kids these days do not have those same opportunities.” Well – think again.

In fact, I would argue kids today have MORE opportunities for career exploration and post-high school options than anything to which my dad had access.

There are times when our state leaders make a good decision. They did this is 2016, when the governor signed the Postsecondary and Workforce Readiness (PWR) Act into law. (See

The Act implements four strategies that require cooperation between high schools, postsecondary education institutions, employers, and other public and private organizations. The primary purpose of the act is to remove barriers to students transitioning from high school into college and careers. The four strategies include: 1) PaCE – The Postsecondary and Career Expectations (PaCE) framework, 2) College and Career Pathway Endorsements on High School Diplomas, 3) Transitional Math Instruction to Avoid Remediation, and 4) Pilot of Competency-Based High School Graduation Requirements.

The PaCE framework guides communities on organizing career exploration experiences, college preparation and selection, and financial literacy requirements starting in fifth grade and going through 12th grade. The framework includes a grade-by-grade detail of activities guiding students to link career interests, course selections, and work-based learning opportunities (i.e., job shadowing and internships). This includes accessing dual credit courses, AP classes and setting up job shadowing and internship programs. Students can earn dual credit at L-P in nearly 100% of our vocational classes.

High schools must select and implement at least one College and Career Pathway Endorsement. There are seven endorsement areas from which to select. Schools can and should select more than one. Examples include Agriculture, Food, and Natural Resources; Finance and Business; Health Science and Technology; and Manufacturing, Engineering, Technology, and Trades. L-P selected Manufacturing, Engineering, Technology, and Trades as our first diploma endorsement.

Transitional Math is a high school class offering successful students with guaranteed placement into credit-bearing college classes at all Illinois community colleges and accepting universities. It is our goal to have 100% of L-P graduates avoid remedial math classes in college and leave with either dual credit or AP course credit.

Lastly, the state piloted competency-based high school graduation requirements. Approximately 50 schools across the state participated in the pilot – which moves away from traditional “seat-time” requirements to competency-based guidelines. L-P is not one of the pilot programs.

It is an exciting time to be a high school student. Options are plentiful, much more so than what my dad had available in 1966. Students start thinking about career options in middle school. Once in high school they take courses linked to their career interests; explore careers by spending time in local businesses – with some students earning course credit through work-based learning programs; and earn college credits while still a high school student.

If you want to learn more about what your high school is doing or how you can get involved – give them a call. I guarantee you will find enthusiastic school folk!

Steven Wrobleski, superintendent at La Salle-Peru High School, is one of the NewsTribune’s community columnists. The NewsTribune has invited leaders to write about their organizations, to give insight into the community and further educate readers about happenings within their groups. If you are interested in sharing information about your community organization, contact