Career Guidance as an Investment (#58)

Kuder Career Coach Alesia Ruffin has a three-point career exploration strategy for her 7th through 12th grade students in Alabama: 1) Build relationships, 2) Diminish generational “curses,” and 3) Create opportunities. In this week’s podcast Alesia shares her belief that career guidance is an investment in our students’ future.

Inspiring School Counselors
Inspiring School Counselors
Career Guidance as an Investment (#58)

This Week's Storyteller

Alesia C. Ruffin is a District Career Coach – Career and Technical Education and Workforce Development with Montgomery Public Schools. A servant for young people, Alesia has dedicated her life for the past 10 years preparing young scholars for the workforce and ensuring they have the employability skills to obtain and retain employment. 

Alesia is an advocate for education equity, the development of disruptive innovators, and the promotion of self-efficacy.

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Matt Fleck:

Hi, everyone! Welcome back to the Encouraging Words for School Counselors podcast. I’m your host Matt Fleck and this week’s podcast is sponsored by KuderKuder ensures that people of all ages can unlock the power of their own potential and create a bright future.

In the crush of trying to get everything done at school for our students and our parents and our colleagues, career exploration and career readiness activities can sometimes be just one more thing on the checklist. 

Somehow Alesia Ruffin, who is a career coach for middle and high school students in multiple schools in the Montgomery, Alabama school district, manages to get it all done. Though she admits, it is sometimes the smallest things that make the biggest difference. 

Alesia Ruffin:

I had a young man. I was working with him during the summer in the office and he wanted to get something to eat for lunch. So I said, well, I’ll pay for your lunch. You just go get it and bring it back and things like that. So he ended up giving me my sandwich. And so I ended up putting the change — he gave me my change back, but I ended up putting the change back in the bag for him. And he brought it back and said, Ms. Ruffin, you left your money in there. I said, no, that’s there for you because you didn’t have to do it. 

And so, moving forward, he had a traumatic experience. He had a great deal of tragedy in his life, and I can say his name, his name is Bill Willis, and he had a tragedy in his life. And so he reached out to me, he said Ms. Ruffin, I don’t think I can go on. I said yes, you have the stamina family and you have the tenacity, you can make it. And so I kept talking to him, kept encouraging him. 

And so he ended up this past year graduating from college with a degree in education. And so he said, Ms. Ruffin, I really want to give back and I want to come work for Montgomery public schools. And I said, Perfect! Is there anything that I can do to help you? He said the first thing, can you look at my resume? And I said, absolutely, I would definitely look at your resume. So I worked on it and he went back and made some changes, made some corrections. And so he called me and he said, Ms. Ruffin, I think I aced my interview. I said, I know you did. I think you did very well. And so this coming school year, he will be teaching in our district as an educator. And so I said, I’m so proud of you. 

And so just building that relationship, just going to get something from McDonald’s — a simple sandwich — has allowed me to continue that relationship with him. So he’s going to do very well. And I told him, I’m here for you, whatever you need, just feel free to reach out. So that was such a rewarding story.


Another student of Alesia’s loved to work on air conditioners. So she helped him enroll in the HVAC program at their area technical center. And later asked him, “Have you ever thought about enrolling in dual enrollment so you can earn both high school and college credit at the same time?” The student said he had never thought of that – so he enrolled – and the outcome impacted him AND his mother.


This young man, as a result of him being, you know, gung ho and wanting to further his education and that love for HVAC, he ended up receiving an associates degree from Trinity State Community College and as a part of that he was a part of a program called GEAR UP Alabama, where students gain early career awareness for undergraduate programs. And so as a result of that program, he was able to have his tuition paid in full and his mother was able to go back to school and obtain her associate’s degree in information technology, because he was enrolled in the dual enrollment program and GEAR UP. So I thought that was a win-win. You have his mother get her associates and then Charles attained his associates. So breaking those generational [not sure], it was just unbelievable. I was just crying at the graduation. I was just so elated and happy for them.


Alesia is expanding her career readiness activities with students this year with a new program for middle school students.


I’m going to implement a private program called Meeting in the Middle, and the acronym is M&M. Since I will be working with middle school students this year, I have five different pillars that I will be discussing because I want to build students for careers yet to be discovered. 

So there’s five different disruptive innovation skills that I’m going to hone on for the students:

  • One is associations — how can they connect different areas together? 
  • And then I’m going to look at the question students always want to know: Why am I doing something? Why is this going to help me? How is this going to help me? 
  • Once they do that, they will go into observing. Let’s observe to see how this particular area is going to impact you. How can it change? 
  • And then we’re going to go into looking at experimenting. Let’s do something different, let’s change the status quo. How would this happen for you? 
  • And then networking — bringing industries in, different business partners in.

And so our middle school students are really crucial and it’s vital because they’re in that phase of the elementary phase and high school. So I want to make sure they have a clear pathway when they matriculate to high school and onto post-secondary. So Meeting in the Middle — I’m very excited for this pilot initiative this year. I’m looking forward to great opportunities that my middle school students would really be able to have that streamlined pathway for their future.  


It DOES take a lot of time to complete career exploration programs like Alesia does, but we all know the investment pays off, even if we don’t always see it right away.

Thanks for the reminder, Alesia. And thanks again to Kuder, Inc for sponsoring our podcast this week. To find out more about Kuder, visit them at leading the industry in career guidance and college readiness.

Thanks also to YOU for subscribing to the Encouraging Words for School Counselors podcast, for telling your colleagues about the program, and for contributing a story of your own…  

Wait – you haven’t shared a story of your own yet? Hmm. We can fix that. Just send a short note to me – and briefly share a funny or short story of something that happened at the start of this school year. Or if you don’t want to write it down, you can send a quick audio message right from your computer by going to and recording it there. 

You’ve made it to the month of September, so stay strong and we’ll be back next week.