UNION COUNTY, N.C. – The students may be young in age, but educators in Union County are already thinking way ahead about their future.

“We really want to start the conversation at a really, really young age,” said Union County Schools Superintendent Andrew Houlihan.

Houlihan says one of the biggest focuses this year is getting their students both college and career ready.

“A lot of folks use the word ‘or,’” Houlihan said. “We like to use the word ‘and.’”

And that push starts with standardized testing.

“In the coming year, we are going to be one of the first counties in North Carolina to actually pay for students to take the SAT and the PSAT during the school day,” Houlihan said.

Houlihan says the state already pays for students to take the ACT. But he wants to open even more doors for his students.

“We recognize that there are a lot of students that could go to a tier-one university that may only take the SAT and so that's kind of a barrier,” he said. “We want to eliminate that barrier.”

Breaking down barriers, all for a brighter future.