ANDERSON, Mo. — McDonald County is one of 35 school districts selected for a statewide initiative to help students focus on post-graduation plans.

McDonald County High School is set to hire a new advisor to help students prepare for life after they graduate. It’s all part of a statewide initiative focusing on students in rural areas.

“In a rural area — and that’s kind of what this grant was intended for — was helping students in rural districts — is just they don’t seem to get a lot of the exposure that students do as far as job diversity and things like that that students in more urban areas see,” said Michael Shaddox, McDonald County High School Counselor.

“It will be wonderful to have somebody who’s purely focused on helping our students as they move past this high school and into post-secondary — looking at the different options that might be out there for them whether they want to pursue college, career, go straight to work or technical school. We just want them to be prepared for whatever avenue they choose that makes sense for their lives once they leave us,” said Angela Brewer, McDonald County High School Principal.

And with school counselors taking on more and more responsibilities due to COVID-19, the extra staffing will be significant.

“In our office, taking on virtual education that’s came along with COVID — that’s taken up a lot of our time. And then also just the increased mental health aspect… Having a person that’s solely geared towards working with students on that post-secondary transition is going to be huge,” said Shaddox.

“I can’t express how thankful we are that we were chosen and how much this position is needed. We’ve seen such an increase in mental health and that takes up the time of our current counselors and so this will really help our counseling department be able to focus on all of our student’s needs,” said Brewer.

Officials expect the hiring process to be completed by the end of January.