By Melanie Petrucci, Senior Community Reporter
Shrewsbury – Long before remote learning became the norm statewide, an initiative was in the works at Shrewsbury High School (SHS) to connect students with school alumni in a mentoring capacity. The goal was to provide current students a way to engage in informal discussions with graduates about life after high school.
The program officially began April 20 and was developed by Assistant School Superintendent Dr. Jane Lizotte who said that the stay-at-home guidelines set forth by Governor Baker during the COVID-19 pandemic offered a perfect timing to rollout this initiative because many people were home and could participate in the discussions from home.
“Clearly here the silver lining is that people are not only willing and available to engage in these conversations but they look forward to them,” Lizotte said.
These discussions involved regular and structured exploration and information sharing in online webinars that foster and explore potential opportunities for work, career and continuing education “in light of the individual student’s interests, curiosities, strengths and skills,” according to Lizotte.
The idea was to run the program for about a week. It was open to sophomores, juniors and seniors and more than 100 students had signed up.
Communication to school alumni was sent out through several avenues. Fifty-five graduates from a variety of industries, including aviation, real estate, computer programming, medicine, teaching, military, business and criminal justice, participated. Most were eager to share their experiences.
“I have been amazed by the level of engagement and enthusiasm on the part of both alumni and students,” Lizotte noted. “We are just really grateful to those who have signed up.”
Lizotte shared that she could hear the excitement in the voices of the students.
She credited Kathleen Keohane and Michelle Biscotti, development and volunteer coordinators for the school district, for their work in setting up the infrastructure of the program. They served as program administrators and session moderators.
Students and alumni were each asked to fill out a survey relevant to their experiences upon their completion of the program.
The feedback from the alumni was positive in general. Many liked the format and the timing and thought that students asked great questions and were comfortable asking them. One thought that students benefitted from alumni having a wide variety of backgrounds and careers.
From the student perspective, comments were again positive.
“When asked, all students and alumni surveyed said they would participate again,” Lizotte said.
“I thought everything went well! Hopefully the next time we get to do this it will be in person,” one alumnus said. “I felt that this gave students even more opportunities to be heard, be seen and engage in those small group conversations where I think they are getting an awful lot of helpful information.”