Sabine Pass High School Students Pioneer New Program

Sabine Pass

In the wake of two hurricanes— Rita and Ike—that devastated the Sabine Pass, TX, area, an innovative idea for rebuilding was born. Kathleen Hicks, Chairman of the Certified Insurance Counselors (CIC) Board of Governors, had assisted in rebuilding the community and understood, first-hand, the importance of getting the children back to school as quickly as possible. While most of the affected school districts were struggling daily to keep their children in school, Sabine Pass—with the leadership of Superintendent Kristi Heid (Principal Heid at that time), a steadfast energetic force for quality education—managed to maintain their academic rigor throughout these natural disasters, with students excelling in UIL academic competition and retaining their silver-level rank in the U.S. News’ Best High Schools rankings.

In one of Kathleen Hick’s many discussions with Superintendent Heid regarding the state of the schools, Heid mentioned that Texas had recently passed House Bill 5, which made substantial changes to the state’s curriculum and graduation requirements. Texas high school students could now earn credit for specific areas of study, like business and industry, STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math), arts and humanities, etc. Heid asked if Hicks knew of any business/risk management curriculum that was recognized by the industry and would be appropriate for high school students.

The Big Idea

The idea occurred to Hicks that the model of the University Associate Program, established by The National Alliance for Insurance Education & Research, might be a good fit—it could be applied at the high school level using the curriculum from their Certified Insurance Service Representative (CISR) Program—with the primary objective to prepare talented, motivated high school students to work in entry-level insurance and risk management positions after school or during the summer. Upon graduation, the students would have the necessary experience to get good-paying jobs that would assist them in financing their college and professional educations.

Hicks conferred with William T. Hold, Ph.D., CIC, CPCU, CLU, President, and William J. Hold, CRM, CISR, Senior Vice President of The National Alliance, to flesh out the concept. Heid loved the idea of being able to access curriculum already recognized and respected in the industry, rather than just purchasing some generic, off-the-shelf product. And, she could already identify a willing and able instructor for the program: Ashleigh Deslatte, who had put herself through school working as a Customer Service Representative in her brother-in-law’s insurance agency.

The next challenge they faced was funding, since the school district didn’t have the resources to purchase the courses from The National Alliance. Hicks solved that problem by partnering with Bob Rogers, CLU, ChFC, a long-time National Alliance faculty member, to provide scholarships for the initial class. Together, Hicks and Rogers pledged to fund the program until it proved itself and could become eligible for district funding or self-funding through community participation.

The Pilot’s Structure

The semester-long pilot program featured an online self-study CISR Insuring Personal Auto Exposures Course. During classroom hours, Deslatte took the online course along with her students, led class discussions about the material, and provided real-life examples from her own agency experience. In addition, the group took three field trips.

Visited an Insurance Agency

Bob Rogers accompanied the group to Houston on a field trip to Bowen, Miclette & Britt Insurance Agency, LLC, where Senior Vice Presidents, Donna Wilson, CIC, and Michelle Dennis, AIS, API, CIC, CRIS, MLIS, presented the students with several case studies and allowed the group to physically follow the flow of the cases through the various agency departments: marketing, sales, risk management, IT, service, underwriting, operations, accounting, claims, etc. The experience provided valuable lessons about the roles of the departments and how they all worked together to contribute to the account.

Toured an Insurance Convention

After their agency visit, the group reconvened for the 2015 Houston Insurance Day convention where Rogers led the students around and introduced them to his fellow industry exhibitors. Dr. Wendall Braniff, Director of the University of Houston–Downtown Insurance and Risk Management Center, and some of her college-level students joined the group for lunch, providing the high school and college students a chance to visit and share their excitement about the vastness, diversity, and opportunity in the industry.

Attended a CISR Classroom Course

The students’ final field trip was to San Antonio, where they attended the classroom version of a CISR Personal Auto Course. They participated in the class, interacted with the other course participants, and took the final exam.

Lessons Learned

The CISR Personal Auto Course proved quite challenging to the students. It was initially chosen as the starting point to provide practical experience for a position in a personal lines agency, but it became clear that the students needed more background before getting into the details of policy language and insurance codes. As the program continues to develop, future participants will start with The National Alliance’s Introductory Series online courses to gain preparatory knowledge, and follow those with a “bigger picture” course like CISR’s Agency Operations or Elements of Risk Management.

A Big Thank You

For their zeal in piloting this new educational program, The National Alliance would like to acknowledge the farsighted leadership of Sabine Pass ISD Superintendent, Kristi Heid; the commitment of teacher, Ashleigh Deslatte; the support and guidance of Kathleen Hicks and Bob Rogers; and most importantly, the pioneering, hardworking students of Sabine Pass High School.

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