Navigating Futures: More Than Just Digital Skills in Washington County PA
As the Director of Digital Inclusion at Computer Reach, I deeply understand how digital skills and resources can transform the futures of our youth. Recently, Sarah Radcliffe, our dedicated digital navigator, collaborated with Ester Barnes from Southwest Training Services Inc., and Katie Hores, a graduate student in public relations at Point Park University, actively engaging with four senior English classes at Washington High School in Washington, PA.
In this session, they not only addressed crucial post-high school plans but also provided advice and guidance on a range of pertinent topics. These included assessing the location of prospective colleges, evaluating the merits and potential drawbacks of pursuing higher education, choosing appropriate majors based on individual interests and career prospects, and understanding the typical workload and the balance between work, academic responsibilities, and personal life in college. They also answered numerous queries about specific colleges the students were considering. This comprehensive approach served as a robust demonstration of our commitment to expanding digital literacy and empowerment among youth, guiding them through these critical decision-making processes.
The visit to Washington High, arranged through the initiative of Ester Barnes and English teachers Mr. Campbell and Ms. Ola, was an eye-opener. The school, with its modest size of 1,490 students and a concerning proficiency rate of 17% in Math and 38% in Reading, represents a microcosm of the challenges faced by many in our county. Despite these hurdles, the graduation rate stands at an encouraging 87%, a testament to the resilience and hope harbored by the students and teachers alike. Sarah’s interactions revealed a diverse array of aspirations, from four-year colleges to culinary and trade schools, and even military service. It is heartening to learn that despite limited resources – a student-to-counselor ratio of 367:1 is far from ideal – these students are eager to carve out their paths.
Looking ahead, our commitment to the youth of Washington County PA remains unwavering. The potential for more such sessions across other schools in the region we serve is exciting. These engagements are more than just informational exchanges; they are about instilling hope and confidence in the students. By providing them with the digital tools and skills necessary in today’s world, we are not only preparing them for immediate challenges but also equipping them for long-term success. The response from the students was not just positive, but enlightening for us as well. Their openness to new ideas and eagerness to explore diverse paths reaffirm our belief in the power of digital inclusion as a catalyst for change and development.
Sarah’s experience at Washington High is a reminder of the crucial role our Washington County Digital Navigator Project plays in the community. By extending our reach and resources, and partnering with community organizations such as Southwest Training Services Inc. and local schools, we are not just addressing immediate educational and technological needs but are also actively contributing to the community’s economic and personal development. It is a responsibility we embrace with enthusiasm and dedication, eagerly anticipating the creation of more impactful experiences in the future.
by Will Perez, Digital Inclusion Director, Computer Reach