Two headshot photos of Henderson ES teachers with the mascot husky to the right-hand sideEvery spring, the educators at Henderson Elementary School host a college awareness week. Traditionally, the staff hangs college banners in the school's hallways, shares facts about colleges and majors during morning announcements, and provides students with fun and engaging college-related activities such as exploring college websites and taking interest inventories to determine areas of study that might interest them.

This year, Henderson Elementary Principal Suzanne Bevans and school counselors, Kristen Gowing and Suzanna Erlichman, teamed up to ensure their annual tradition continued by celebrating College Awareness Week with their students, virtually.

"We want them to get excited about the idea of college," Gowing said. "Our hope is that they will begin to dream about what they want for their future," she added.

Starting early is important according to Erlichman. "College is only one option and even within college there are many options," she shared, adding, "Exploring these tracks can be a fun and exciting way to begin exploring interests and setting goals."

While the week-long virtual event is fun for students, there's also a practical side.
"Discussing career opportunities at an early age also allows us the opportunity to make the real-life connection to learning in math, science, and language arts," Bevans said.

Staff began College Awareness Week by releasing a fun videotaped message to students with each educator sharing their personal educational stories.

"By sharing about the education that we have received, we can help students understand that we've been on this journey before and we had to work hard and overcome challenges, but we have walked away with a degree that we are proud of," said Gowing. Noting the influence educators can have on students, Bevans said, "It is important as a role model to share with our students our own journey in education."

The team has prepared additional activities for students throughout the week including sending students hyperlinks to virtual tours of college campuses. While taking the tour, students fill out a virtual scavenger hunt worksheet that helps them learn about the college or university, its mascot, costs, and the connections they make to the institution.

"This exploration is not only for fun, but also to get them to think about things they will need to consider before choosing to apply there," Erlichman said, noting, "If the student is doing the tours with a family member, perhaps at their alma mater, the family member can share their experience and the student will not only be learning about their school, but also that family member."

Connecting with students and families is at the heart of what College Awareness Week is all about.

"During this COVID crisis when we are separated physically, it is even more imperative that we connect with our students virtually daily, so they feel secure about our continued support," Bevans shared, "I am so proud of our counseling team for putting together the Virtual College Week to promote the fun, engaging learning, continue the connections with our families and challenge their thinking about the future."