We spoke to college and career readiness facilitator Sarah Pewitt about how she’s using Hoonuit to prepare upcoming high school graduates for the future.
Every June, high school seniors across the country wear their caps and gowns and shake their principals’ hands as they accept their high school diplomas. Whether graduating students plan to attend a 2- year, 4-year, or vocational/technical/trade college or enter the workforce, it’s essential that they have a plan in place to help them pursue the future of their choosing.
But how do students decide what path is right for them? And how do they prepare for the future when they’re still just in high school? Sarah Pewitt is an educator in Washington state’s Everett Public School District whose primary job is to facilitate a focus on college and career readiness — or as she puts it, she’s “in charge of high school and beyond.” She works to develop and implement counseling and education programs that help students graduate on time with the tools they need to succeed in the real world. We spoke to Pewitt about how educators and counselors can work with students to make sure they’re prepared to step off that graduation stage into a future of their own making.
One of Pewitt’s primary goals is to implement technology training programs that help students develop relevant real-world skills — like how to create resumes or fill out financial aid forms — while also learning about technology and research using online platforms. “Most colleges are using some type of online platform or hybrid model,” she says, “so students need to know how to learn online and take advantage of those resources.”
Pewitt has developed a college and career readiness curriculum for her school district’s counselors, which begins in sixth grade and culminates in a senior year seminar. The courses focus on several areas designed to help students identify their passions, figure out what they want to do after they graduate, and chart a path toward achieving those goals. Using the resources offered through Hoonuit’s online platform, Pewitt and other district counselors guide students toward the tools that best match their needs, whether that’s learning how to complete the FAFSA and working through freshman year experience modules, or learning how to complete job applications and ace an interview.
Pewitt must also make sure educators are adequately trained before they can demonstrate digital tools and programs for students. “It’s challenging to convince staff to change their ways and implement new technology,” she says. “For many of them, it’s just not of their generation.” Even for those who are on board, Pewitt says there’s typically a steep learning curve: “Often, teachers will go into training and say ‘That sounds so great,’ but also ‘Where do I start?’”
Making sure her teachers are prepared is crucial to the success of Pewitt’s program. “The only way for students to understand the platform and put it in their ‘toolkit’ is for teachers to model it,” she says. As part of her counselor training, she shows counselors how to use the Hoonuit platform — everything from how to log in to how to search and favorite different courses and modules. This way, when students reach out to counselors or when counselors are leading classes, they can seamlessly direct students to the resources they need.
Pewitt says that Hoonuit provides her district’s counselors, who are already inundated with other work and responsibilities at school, to make college and career readiness tools available to students around the clock. “It’s on demand, it’s vetted, it’s packaged. It’s completely different than just randomly finding a YouTube clip,” she says. “It provides a safe environment for students to learn — which is so important — and it’s consumable.”
Pewitt is also in the process of implementing a digital learning ambassador program through which student volunteers are trained in all of Hoonuit’s functionalities to assist other students. “Our goal is to give students functional skills and let them take that to the next level,” she says. By providing an opportunity for students to be leaders at the high school level, Pewitt hopes that students will learn valuable technology skills — as well as social and emotional skills — that they can take with them to college and beyond.