“I think it's a huge benefit for high schoolers to get this exposure to what it's like to apply for a job, have an interview. And, we try and make interviews as friendly as possible. But, it's a real interview at the end of the day. So, that's going to be a valuable experience that they can take away.” ~ Hannah Elliott
(Transcript available below)
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Heidi Higgins: Hi there I'm Heidi Higgins and you are listening to K12 on Learning. It was President John F. Kennedy that said, "Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other." In high school, learning leadership skills allows a student to develop confidence and the ability to guide themselves and others towards goal achievement, in all areas of life. In traditional schools, the leadership is taught through student government, elected positions and other extracurricular means. But in virtuallearning, we wondered if it would be the same. Well Stride Career Prep took that hope to build a leadership opportunity and implemented a plan unlike leadership programs, in traditional schools, Hannah Elliott is the manager of this initiative, and I've invited her here to share some insights. Hannah, welcome back to the podcast. Since we visited last, you've taken over managing this Stride Career Prep Student Advisory Council. What's that like?
Hannah Elliott: Oh, it's been so much fun. I get to work withstudents who are currently enrolled in our Stride K12 powered schools, and I learn so much from them and it's been wonderful to see them grow, and grow their confidence through the program that I manage.
Heidi Higgins: Hannah, let's start by sharing what Stride Career Prep Student Advisory Council is.
Hannah Elliott: The Stride Career Prep Student Advisory Council is a six month, part-time internship or job opportunity for Stride K12 powered students who are particularly enrolled in the Stride Career Prep Program at their school. So they are taking career courses. They've selected a pathway and they are working on their career aspirations, in addition to their traditional high school curriculum. And within the Student Advisory Council Program, these students really get to star as the faces of Stride Career Prep for the six months that we work with them. So some of the activities that they participate in are creating social media content, writing blogs, participating in focus groups and meetings with Stride employees. And we learn a lot about the student experience from these students. And in return for all of their time and hard work, we provide them with training, swag, networking opportunities, professional development opportunities, and they are paid for their time. So it's so beneficial for us and we try and make it really beneficial for the students as well.
Heidi Higgins: Well, this is a program that is gaining popularity and I love that it's also producing amazing results. So that's why I wanted to haveyou on here today. Who is eligible to become a part of this? Who can join and be part of this council?
Hannah Elliott: Students who are in 9th through 12th grade at a Stride K12 powered school, and who are currently enrolled in their school's Stride Career Prep Program, are eligible to apply for the Student Advisory Council. Now, there is an application process when we start a new cohort and it is becoming very selective, but anyone who is 9th through 12th grade in Stride Career Prep is encouraged to applyfor this opportunity.
Heidi Higgins: How many students in schools were represented in a second group that you call a cohort?
Hannah Elliott: We just finished up our most recent cohort and they were our fall 2021 cohort. We refer to them as cohort number two, since it was our second time running the six month program. And there were 23 students in this cohort, representing 15 of our schools with Stride Career Prep. So they did incredible work throughout the program and we're very proud of all that they accomplished.
Heidi Higgins: Hannah, this is a paid experience. What is the time and requirement?
Hannah Elliott: These students work with us for three hours a week. So they still are able to prioritize their schoolwork while participating in this program, which is a very important aspect of it. And we try and make the program as flexible as possible with that in mind. So for this past cohort, the students have spent about one hour per week attending a meeting. And this meeting may be a focus group where we askthe students questions and gain perspective on their genuine experiences with our programming. Or sometimes it's a workshop where students get to work on building career skills, like improving their resume, building a really strong, tallow profile and more. And one other meeting that we have is just meet and greets with different teams and employees here at Stride.
Then the other two hours or so per week, students are either working on their own or in a small team with other students from Stride K12 powered schools, across the country, to complete other assignments we give them. They create a lot of social media. They write a ton of blogs and work on a lot of things that help us to learn about the student experience from the experts, the students themselves. A lot of the student advisors are also very involved either in clubs and organizations at their school like career and technical student organizations, or some students even have another part-time job, in addition to the student advisory council, while they are pursuing their high school degree and pursuing the Stride Career Prep Program. So I have found while working with these students, that they have the ability to manage all of these things.
Heidi Higgins: Why was it so important for Stride to develop an opportunity like this for students?
Hannah Elliott: Well, we are always looking for ways to improve our programming for the families that we serve. And we thought, who better to learn from about how we're doing than the students themselves. So we learn so much every single time that we talk to our Stride Career Prep Student Advisors. I hear nothing but glowing things after we hold meetings with our Stride employees, because the students are able to speak so eloquently about the experiences that they'rehaving in our programs, the good and the bad, and we are able to say, "Let's continue on certain aspects or let's work to improve or change other aspects," based on that student feedback. So it is invaluable to hear from these students directly.
Heidi Higgins: You're right, the end user is that student and its fun to be able to hear their report back of the things that they're experiencing. So what I found fascinating, Hannah, was the readout of their accomplishments.
Hannah Elliott: We do have a bit of a marketing focus in this program. So the students have been creating a lot of social media content. They've created, I believe upwards of 40 TikTok's and Instagram Reels. One thing I'm really excited about is that in the coming weeks, we will have a blog published by every single student advisor in our last cohort. So lots and lots of blogs. They've been doing other social media posts elsewhere. You'll see testimonials from these students all over our websites. So they are doing an amazing job at sharing their honest experiences and translating that into these different formats. It's definitely a challenge that we throw them, because they are going back and forth between blog writing and attending meetings and making social media. But it's been amazing to seehow their confidence has grown in all of these different formats throughout the program.
Heidi Higgins: You are now inviting students to participate in your third group or cohort. So you've completed the last six months with the group that you had before.And this is something I found that was really important because this is not a student body elected position like you find in most high schools, but rather, it's an opportunity to touch the future, so to speak, by creating an environment across the nation,to apply for a job that pays, is obtained through a real resume, an application process, and requires participation and a product while in the position. What a boost for the student and a wonderful addition to a resume. How do you apply to become a Student Advisory Council member?
Hannah Elliott: Yes. So you are exactly correct, Heidi. Our application for the student advisory council is on our careers page. That is the same as for all Stride employees. So to apply for the Student Advisory Council, we have an application webpage that takes students directly to an application where they'll input their resume and a lot of other general information about themselves. And then those applications are reviewed and students are invited to interview. So even before students are selected for the Student Advisory Council, this is an opportunity for students to go through that job interview and hiring cycle and have an experience very similar to an employee who theoretically would be much older than them.
Heidi Higgins: What are the benefits of applying for, and then becoming part? What are the benefits here?
Hannah Elliott: I think it's a huge benefit for high schoolers to get this exposure to what it's like to apply for a job, have an interview. And we try and make interviews as friendly as possible, but it's a real interview at the end of the day, so that's going to be a valuable experience that they can take away. And then students who are selected for the Student Advisory Council, there are so many benefits in my opinion. So there's all of the exposure to the work that they get to do. They get a lot of experience creating social media content, a lot of experience speaking in front of a group, which is very, very daunting for students and adults alike. They get exposureto a true corporate workplace. They are filling out time sheets and fulfilling processes, just like adult employees here at Stride. So that's very new for a lot of our students as well. So they are taking in all of this information, that's going to serve them so well in their future opportunities.
But some other benefits that I like to touch on when I talk about this program are first and foremost, students get to feel like their opinions are heard through this program. Time and time again, after meetings, we're asking the students questions, the students come back to me and say, "It's really rare in high school, to have an opportunity where I can speak up and really feel like I'm being heard." So we allow students to voice their opinions in this program and be heard. And we at Stride, we absolutely love it too. We benefit just as much because the students opinions are so, so valuable to us. It's a really unique opportunity in that way. Another benefit is just getting to see behind the scenes of how we operate here at Stride. And a lot of students have come back to me and say that's very cool as well. So, I think the benefits are endless, but those are some of the big ones.
Heidi Higgins: What is it like to work with the students day in and day out?
Hannah Elliott: It's great. I really enjoy my role. They are very impressive. These students know so much more what they want to do with their futures, than I did at their point, maybe than I even do now. These students that we select have such distinct career paths that they are pursuing and they are really dedicated to pursuing those. So they're an impressive group that I've worked with, and it's a lot of fun just getting to meet our students and see how they are creative throughout our program. There's a lot of creativity since I try and make our assignments open ended, give them all the framework and the details that they need, but make it open-ended enough that they can put their own creative spin on things. So I really can't say enough good things about the students that we selected for the previous cohort. And I'm also getting really excited about the students that I'm speaking to, who may be selected for cohort three, they're equally as impressive.
Heidi Higgins: So Hannah, these are six month terms. Are theyJanuary to June or by what calendar dates?
Hannah Elliott: They are six month programs. Our intention is to launch the program either in late April or early may. And that will run over the summer into about October. So depends a little bit when we get everything finalized, but that is the expected timeline for the program. And then right after that one ends, we will start our next six months. In our ideal world, we would love to have at least one student from every single school with a Stride Career Prep Program, in the Student Advisory Council to get a full representation of all schools with Stride Career Prep, so we could always use more.
Heidi Higgins: What's it like for a student to represent their school?
Hannah Elliott: I think the students are reallyproud to represent their school. And one of the cool things about this program too, is that we have students from the across the country. And it's really fascinating to see different students talking about the same topic, because one student may have one cool thing that their school's doing, and another student may hear about it and say, "Oh wow I wish we did that at my school. I'm going to talk to my counselors and administrators about that." So they're always very excited to speak about their schools andalso hear about the other schools.
Heidi Higgins: Hannah, the students are likely hearing about these opportunities to be part of this student council from their counselors and their teachers. Where else are you promoting this opportunity to the students?
Hannah Elliott: We are promoting this opportunity on a variety of different sites and on social media. You can learn more at k12.com in the Student Advisory Council section of the website. We actually have updated profiles for both of our cohort members on that webpage now. So you can also learn about the students who have participated in this program in the past.
Heidi Higgins: We will include some links so that you can find this information on the website. Hannah, are there deadlines coming up for this next cohort?
Hannah Elliott: We do not have a set deadline, but I would recommend that if you are interested in this opportunitythat you apply as soon as possible, as we are trying to wrap up hiring processes, sometime in early April.
Heidi Higgins: The Stride Career Prep Student Advisory Council is managed by Hannah Elliot. Thanks for joining us here today, Hannah. Thank you for listening to K12 on Learning, sponsored by Stride. To learn more about online public schools, powered by Stride K12, Stride Career Prep programs that foster lifelong learning or any of the private school or individual course offerings, please go to stridelearning.com or k12.com. Special thanks to Tree-K Studios for providing the music for us. Remember to subscribe to this podcast and feel free to leave us a good review. We hope you'll join us next time for K12 on Learning.
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