Seniors in the Class of 2020 had their school year cut short and futures cast in doubt by COVID-19, but a new initiative is offering personal help to get back on track to college or a job.
“Next Steps to Your Future,” aimed at Hawaii’s public school graduates, has two components: an individual adviser to give guidance and a chance to take a career exploration course or two at a community college for credit, at no cost.
“This is intended as an immediate intervention for the graduating Class of 2020,” said Stephen Schatz, executive director of Hawaii P-20 Partnerships for Education. “It’s so uncertain right now that we’re worried about kids losing momentum toward their future plans.”
The program is sponsored by Hawaii P-20 and the University of Hawaii community colleges, with funding from the Harold K.L. Castle Foundation, the Hawaii Community Foundation, Strada Education Network and the Stupski Foundation.
Typically, counselors play a big role in the last semester of senior year in getting graduates rolling in the right direction. But that was derailed when school shut down at spring break, and some seniors are drifting and unsure of what to do.
The goal of the new effort is to help students identify and move toward career goals, whether it’s employment, further training or a college degree.
“It’s going to provide some hope to these seniors, who must be wondering, ‘What should I do when there’s no summer jobs out there for me anymore?’” said Terry George, president and CEO of the Castle Foundation. “Should I go to a four-year college, a two-year college? Should I get an industry certificate? Instead of just being lost, after their virtual graduations, they’re going to have people who can guide, lead and support them.”
“Depending on their interests and their direction, they are going to be offered continued nudging and support to get to that next step,” he said. “It also includes some peer mentoring.”
Students may sign up for the adviser or the online college courses or both. The adviser will reach out to students via text message, to share information and suggestions, and also be available for phone calls or virtual meetings. The deadline is Wednesday to sign up for the advising component of the program.
The “Next Steps: Career Exploration” courses offered through the community colleges have four different start dates, beginning with May 26, so students should sign up soon. Those career courses include ones focused on fields such as business, health, theater, social work and sustainability. One offered in Hawaiian will explore careers from an indigenous Hawaiian perspective.
“The first class is to help students identify where they are headed, figure out what kind of education or training they might need to achieve their goals and then make a plan to move forward,” said Tammi Oyadomari-Chun, associate vice president for academic affairs for the UH community colleges.
“Many of those plans will include some kind of post-secondary education or training, but they may not,” she said. “We’re going to help students make sure they get where they want to go.”
Students who complete a career exploration class by July 2 can take a second course in their preferred field, ranging from early education to computer science. Altogether, students may earn from one to six college credits.
“This is targeting students whose plans have been disrupted or they were unsure of their plans before the disruption,” said Oyadomari- Chun. “We think this will lay a good foundation for high school graduates to help them take next steps toward success in their future. We hope they take advantage.”