ConnectEDU’s Mission in Motion: On the Ground in Louisiana
By Adanna Ukah, Enterprise Solutions Associate
Associates in ConnectEDU’s Entrepreneurship Program gain exposure to several facets of the company. Since joining the team in July of 2011, I’ve interfaced with every group, from the Tech and Product Innovation teams to Marketing, though the majority of my time has been spent in Enterprise Solutions. Despite the diversity of roles and ongoing initiatives at ConnectEDU, our message is always the same—we’re student-centered, data-driven, and dedicated to connecting learners to opportunities. A few weeks ago, I had the chance to see these words come to life in the heart of Louisiana.
Every summer for the past 19 years, the Louisiana Office of Student Financial Assistance (LOSFA) has organized a three-day event for rising seniors in high school. This program, called Trailblazer Camp, invites hundreds of student leaders to attend workshops on financial assistance and college prep while staying in college dorms and getting a taste for student life. Upon returning to high school in the fall, these Trailblazers work closely with guidance counselors to help their peers prepare for life post-graduation.
This year was the first time Trailblazers were able to actively engage in the Louisiana Connect portal that launched in January. After working internally to help develop training materials and familiarize myself with the nuances of this specific state portal, I flew down and spent two days demonstrating Louisiana Connect and leading breakout sessions in computer labs. Though I was readily available to share best practices and guide students through critical college and career exploration activities, the Trailblazers quickly gained an understanding of the system, and were able to create resumes, generate college lists, and start viewing local employer profiles within minutes of initial log-in.
Engagement was one of the key messages of my presentation. Like any technology-based resource, Louisiana Connect is made more valuable by data. Imagine a Facebook sans pictures, or Wikipedia with stale and paltry text—without a constant flow of information from a wide variety of sources, these sites are static. Louisiana Connect operates in a similar fashion—although the portal contains pre-populated student information, college and job opportunities, and mechanisms to link students to key stakeholders (parents, counselors, admissions offers, and employers), the tool takes on a third dimension when users constantly return to the system to develop, enhance, and revisit their future plans for career and postsecondary success.
I’m already missing the South—during my trip, I got to meet some awesome student leaders, drive through a significant portion of the Bayou State, and learn a key lesson in perspective. Though it is easy to get caught up in the company’s day-to-day operations in Boston, interacting with end-users throughout our network is key to maintaining focus on our goal— to connect people, inform decision making, and leverage data in new and innovative ways. The 2012-13 school year doesn’t start for a few more weeks, but I’m already looking forward to seeing how the Trailblazers’ work in high schools impacts user engagement and depth of experience in the portal this fall, and in years to come.