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rootED in Missouri

When I was getting near graduation from high school, I remember it well—guidance counseling day. Yup, counseling day. Not sure I was even made aware that it would happen in advance or even what was on the table. They said go see your counselor; I was like, I have a counselor? For what? I walked into the room. The lady (counselor) looked at my folder and said, your grades look ok, but I believe you are better suited for an early career or trade than college. I said thank you and left. I never gave her any thought because I knew she was way off base, and with 20 other kids waiting outside the door, I got the feeling this lady no more cared about me than the man in the moon—how could she, she had no time. In conversations and at dinner parties the rest of my life, I often talk about my meaningless 10 minutes with a high school guidance counselor—I'm sure she was a nice person.


A young professional advisor in glasses smiles brightly as she sits in her office
Nancy Strothmann - College & Career Advisor with rootED Missouri in Cape Girardeau
What to do after high school can be overwhelming for some students and their families. If I can make a difference in one student's life, I have done my job.

Recently, I met a College and Career Advisor who works closely with the school counselors through a program named rootEd Missouri. The advisor focuses on career exploration and ensuring that all students have a plan by graduation. This helps give regular school counselors all the time they need to help students find their way.

It elevates high school counseling and is specially designed for rural communities.


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In 2021, rootEd Missouri, in partnership with the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, launched the Missouri Postsecondary Advising Initiative. A three-year initiative that provides select rural high schools with federal funding to hire college and career advisors to work alongside counselors to help students plan for success after high school.

...coaching for success after high school.

Advisors help students with intensified individual career and academic planning for continued education and training. They help identify opportunities to secure financial aid and help students navigate enrollment in college, earn a workplace credential, enlist in the military, and overall coaching for success after high school.


A young professional advisor in glasses smiles brightly as she sits in her office with an encouraging sign and several different framed degrees on the wall behind her
Nancy Strothmann - College & Career Advisor with rootED Missouri in Cape Girardeau
I am a first-generation high school and college graduate, with my parents immigrating from Cuba in 1980.

My name is Nancy Strothmann. I am a first-generation high school and college graduate, with my parents immigrating from Cuba in 1980. I am married to my husband, Patrick, who I met at Murray State University. We have two sons, Preston, a high school senior, and Dylan, a high school freshman. I enjoy reading, spending time with family and friends, and watching my youngest son play competitive soccer.


A young professional advisor in glasses smiles brightly as she sits in her office holding up a variety of pennants from different local colleges
Nancy Strothmann - College & Career Advisor with rootED Missouri in Cape Girardeau
Before my current position, I worked in Vocational Rehabilitation for 14 years. I began my RootEd Missouri position in 2022, which is my dream job.

I obtained an undergraduate degree in Social Work from Murray State University and a graduate degree in Professional Counseling from Lindenwood University. Before my current position, I worked in Vocational Rehabilitation for 14 years. I began my rootEd Missouri position in 2022, which is my dream job.


rootEd Advisors are embedded in rural Missouri school districts to work alongside the school counselors to help students plan for life success after graduation, whether they are attending college, learning a trade, enlisting in the military, or entering the workforce. Today I am at Cape Central High School.

A young professional advisor in glasses smiles brightly as she sits in her office as she leans on her desk resting her chin on her hand ready to listen
Nancy Strothmann - College & Career Advisor with rootED Missouri in Cape Girardeau
I fell through the cracks. I wanted to do more with my life but needed to figure out where to start.

This is so important to me for a few reasons. I grew up in poverty. My parents were immigrants who spoke little English and had limited education. Spanish was my first language, and I learned English when I started kindergarten. My mom always talked to my brothers and me about the importance of education and the sacrifices she made to ensure that her future children would have every opportunity available. I was a very average student in high school. I graduated high school in 2000 and had no plans. All my friends were attending college, and I began a full-time job at the local Mall. I fell through the cracks.


I wanted to do more with my life but needed to figure out where to start. I knew one day I wanted to either be a teacher or go into a field where I could help others. In June 2000, a local educator came to my home to talk with my younger sibling. She asked me what I was doing after finishing high school. My response was, "working at the mall, but one day I would like to attend college." The next day, she picked me up, enrolled me at the local community college, and helped me complete the FAFSA. She educated me on all the possibilities. I am unsure where I would be today if it were not for her. I will never forget my mom telling me during her final days, "Please finish college. You can do anything you want. I am proud of you."

A young professional advisor in glasses smiles brightly as she stands in the hallway of the high school she helps
Nancy Strothmann - College & Career Advisor with rootED Missouri in Cape Girardeau
I want to ensure that my students understand their potential and what is available to them.

What to do after high school can be overwhelming for some students and their families. If I can make a difference in one student's life, I have done my job. I want to ensure that my students understand their potential and what is available to them. I want to help guide them toward whatever pathway they choose, whether college, trade school, enlisting in the military, or entering the workforce. I am so grateful for the opportunity to give back to my community and make a difference.


It's all so cool. I wish I could have a do-over with Nancy and the rootED Missouri program. I could have used the help for sure.


So Get Out There! Pull yourself out of that sunken sofa and do something, anything. Read a book, go for a hike, wash your car, take a class, learn something new, talk face to face to someone... You can do it!



words and pics by

supreme leader t. smugala

573 magazine editor


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