Program extends reach through virtual mentoring

With new technology, High School Career Connect can help students in schools all over the state of Texas.

With new technology, High School Career Connect can help students in schools all over the state of Texas.

UNT and the Greater Texas Foundation established High School Career Connect (HSCC) in 2018 to show students in Denton County that the destination isn’t just a diploma — it’s a rewarding and satisfying career. Now, thanks to a two-year $100,000 grant from the Texas Pioneer Foundation, HSCC will extend its reach even further through virtual mentoring.

The goal is to help low-income and underrepresented students — mainly in rural Texas school districts with limited access to resources — make important academic and career decisions.

"We are excited to provide the support to help expand the UNT High School Career Connect Program virtually, which will make it available to more students in Texas,” says Fred Markham, executive director of the Texas Pioneer Foundation. “This program greatly enhances the resources available to high school counselors across the state."

The grant will enable HSCC to purchase laptops, audio/visual equipment, greenscreens and everything else the program’s 25 mentors need in order to transition core elements online.

Using the new technology, schools all over Texas can take advantage of HSCC without dedicating a physical space or giving up large blocks of instruction time. And because no two schools share the same needs when it comes to career counseling, HSCC will use its new virtual tools to stay malleable and create the type of targeted content that Cris Buxton, director of HSCC, knows schools desperately need.

“School counselors are so overloaded with crisis counseling that career readiness often drops to the bottom of the priority list — that’s where we come in,” says Buxton. “With this grant from the Texas Pioneer Foundation, we will be able to pass along valuable knowledge and teach self-efficacy to more students than ever,” says Buxton.

The primary focus of virtual mentoring is the same as face-to-face sessions — using strategic questioning to help eighth-grade students select the right classes and assist high school students in creating individualized education and career plans.

But now, mentors can work with students in any location, at any time of day, for as long as necessary.

“Whether meeting in person or virtually, our goal is still to help students plan for their futures. We want to leave them feeling more knowledgeable and confident in what they plan to do,” says HSCC mentor Marissa Lee.

During one-on-one sessions, mentors also share vital information on things like admissions and financial aid in an effort to eliminate common barriers to postsecondary success.

It’s all about increasing access to education and making sure students have a number of pathways in front of them in case one is shut down.

“UNT’s High School Career Connect is something to be proud of,” says David Wolf, vice president for university advancement. “We’re so grateful to the Texas Pioneer Foundation for extending the program’s reach far outside of Denton County so more students all over the state of Texas will be prepared to succeed in college and beyond.”

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