On behalf of Hoover High School’s Academy of Information Technology (AOIT), I would like to wish all of the mentors in the icouldbe program a happy National Mentoring Month, and extend our thanks for all the time you put in helping our students. Our Academy has been part of the icouldbe program for over five years, and each year we have had 80-100 students participate in the program. As a College and Career Technical Educator, the icouldbe program has been instrumental in helping me to ensure that my students have a solid background in what it takes to choose, prepare for, and be successful in a career. The icouldbe curriculum has helped open doors for my students to view the larger world outside of their immediate community. The activities they complete have the greatest benefits in the areas of communication, research, and planning.
Only a small percentage of my students are native English speakers. Most are currently English Learners, and many others are reclassified as English proficient. This makes communication, both verbal and written, a challenge. icouldbe offers these students a way to work on their language skills, especially learning to move from a casual language register to a more professional one. Likewise, students are able to improve both their academic and professional vocabulary which eventually helps them both in resume writing and in interviewing skills. The online and anonymous nature of the mentoring program helps these students to get comfortable quickly as they are less likely to feel they are being judged or put on the spot when they are not face to face with someone they do not know. This often helps the mentees build a better working relationship with their mentors more quickly.
Besides being non-native English speakers, the majority of my students are likely to be the first person in their families to go to college. Having no experience in their families to draw on makes the varied experiences and stories of the mentors extremely valuable. In addition, the goal setting activities, college research tools, and planning guides provided in the curriculum help to make the decision to go to college more real for the students. Further, there are excellent tools for exploring and preparing for careers. One of the beginning skills that the students often have not previously completed is resume writing. They all start out with a very basic template to complete the exercise. Over the course of the year, they take these barebones resumes and learn to add “power” words and language to them to make them better. Many students begin to take up volunteer opportunities to add to the experience sections on their resumes as they learn how important this can be.
Mentors, although I know working online as opposed to working face to face has some distinct advantages, I also wish you could personally see the difference you make in many of these students’ lives. You may not see it in their writing, but I have all the students complete an oral “exit interview” about their icouldbe experience. The last question I ask each of them is what they would say to you if they met you face to face, and they invariably want to thank you for taking some time out of your lives to work with them. I would like to thank you as well.
-Bryan Voeltner, Hoover High School in San Diego, California
Bryan Voeltner is a teacher at Hoover High School in San Diego, California. He has worked there for 18 years and helped to found its small learning community, the Academy of Information Technology.