AOC's Helping Hand
WEB APP & PROGRAM THAT ENCOURAGES HIGH SCHOOLERS TO EXPLORE THEIR CAREER PATH AND TO CONNECT WITH ALUMNI TO LEARN ABOUT THEIR WORK.
Student debt is at an all-time high. The college application process is more competitive than ever. Now, we can no longer use our high school career passively without exploring what may shape the next 5-10 years of our lives. These are facts that I wish I had known at the beginning of my high school career. I felt blindsided by the realities of college admissions.
Thus, I founded AOC's Helping Hand, a college & career readiness program and platform that encourages students at my high school, the Academy of the Canyons (AOC), to explore their career path through alumni engagement and proactive skill development. At AOC, many students lack the resources and cultural capital to explore their academic pathway or to develop the necessary networking and technical skills.
The bottom line: Students lack the direction & mentorship to properly make decisions about their future. I wanted to change that for good.
UX/UI design, User Research, Site Prototyping, Information Architecture, Social Media Marketing, Content Writing
NOVEMBER 2019 - AUGUST 2020
Helping students to discover their path, and what it takes to pursue that path.
The Academy of the Canyons (AOC) is a middle-college high school. As a substitution to enrolling in AP classes, students enroll in classes at our local college, College of the Canyons (COC), which provides a unique opportunity for our students to receive AA degrees upon high school graduation.
This opportunity, however, has developed a cultural norm for students to pursue as many AA degrees as possible, as students compare with their peers in regards to the number of AA degrees that they will earn. Doing so has caused students to overlook college and career readiness altogether, as they look to take as many classes as possible (year-round) in order to maximize their AA degree count, rather than pursuing their passions.
That fact is an antithesis to what top institutions look for. Colleges demand forward-thinking students with versatile skills and a demonstrated passion for their learning. There is a need for a radically different approach to college readiness at AOC.
AOC's Helping Hand is an elective class and a website.
Featured on our website are over 50 academic pathways that allow students to explore potential majors, colleges, and careers within those paths.
We have also established an alumni network, with over 150 alumni that have shared their career journey known as their career "Roadmap."
The "Roadmap" includes the milestones toward discovering their career path, relevant experience towards pursuing their pathway in AOC and in college, and what they are currently doing at their college or career.
THE ALUMNI "ROADMAP" FEATURE
The use of our site is enforced in homeroom classes, where students are given allocated time in class to develop self-awareness for their interests and passions, and to explore different career possibilities.
The elective class consists of students in sub-teams that collectively host networking and speaker events that assist students looking to learn more about alumni or potential careers.
Keeping students at the center of our design process, my co-founders and I worked closely with faculty to design and develop the website and to write its content. The site's development took place over a period of 2 months (8 weeks), and the elective class's development took place over a period of 6 months (24 weeks).
DESIGN & BUILD
WEEK 1 TO 3
Identify the problem
Surveying current students
Discuss frustrations with faculty
Conduct research on potential model solutions
WEEK 4 TO 5
User needs & pain points
WEEK 6 TO 14
Design information architecture
Design wireframes in Figma
Develop the site in Wix
WEEK 15 TO 39
Design & content interation (critiqued by faculty)
Receive feedback from users, the district, and the school
Plan site implementation and elective class events
Before designing the site in Figma, I began the process with a sitemap to document the user flow and navigation.
Surveying Current Students
We wanted to survey current seniors to determine if there were similar feelings about feeling blindsided by the college admissions process, in addition to lacking insight about pursuing a specific career path. Our survey results demonstrated a demand for a mentorship program for students at my school. 65% of the members of my class agreed that receiving guidance from a mentor in their academic pathway would be beneficial , which was a key component to developing my confidence in advancing the idea forward.
Further discussions with select faculty would also re-affirm my perspectives, which gave me the confidence to discuss the importance of pathway exploration in underclassmen advisement classes.
Studying potential model solutions
To learn how to properly structure my program, I contacted guidance counselors at Harvard Westlake High School and Loyola High School, two private high schools that contain alumni mentorship programs.
SOCIAL & EMOTIONAL LEARNING
Mr. Malkowski, my Social & Emotional Learning teacher, developed a four-year plan for students to gain awareness about their strengths and their interests.
This curriculum would serve to pair with usage of the Helping Hand website, as students learn more about their interests and passions.
After thoughtful discussions with current students, faculty, and alumni, I gathered a significant amount of information about recurring pain points that pertain to the career engagement aspect as an AOC student. I also mapped out what our program and our elective class looks like, both of which address these pain points.
Branding & Identity
Colors & Typography
HEADER & SUBHEADER
Circular STD Black
Circular STD Medium
Circular STD Book
My co-founder and I wanted a logo that resembled the feel of our existing school logo in order to create a visual association of our organization and the school. We did so by incorporating the school colors, as well as a spin on our Oak Tree logo, adding roots to symbolize how the career process is "deep-rooted," or multifaceted.
ACADEMY OF THE CANYONS
LOGO AND COLORS
AOC'S HELPING HAND
Here, users are given an overview of the AOC program, as well as a glimpse into student life and a list of necessary resources for college & career readiness.
CONNECT WITH ALUMNI
We have recruited over 150 alumni to share their career journey with us, and to be willing to provide career or college advice to any AOC student that needs it. This page is secure, and requires a log-in for students to access it. Our web dev team hand-approves each student.
EXPLORE AN ALUMNI'S CAREER JOURNEY
Here is an example of an alumni "roadmap." Each roadmap includes the milestones toward discovering their career path, relevant experience towards pursuing their pathway in AOC and in college, and what they are currently doing at their college or career.
DISCOVER YOUR CAREER PATH
Here, users are given an engaging and visually appealing page that allows them to identify a pathway that they find interesting. This was designed for students to pair their personal passions to potential academic interests, or to simply find what they're interested in.
EXPLORE YOUR CAREER PATH
Each pathway page contains information about potential majors, colleges, and career possibilities within that pathway. The page also includes pieces of advice for pursuing that path in high school, as well as four-year coursework plans.
LIFE AT ACADEMY OF THE CANYONS
These pages are also for prospective parents and students, or for current students. Here, a user can gain an understanding of what student life is like at AOC, including student groups, faculty, and school events.
WHAT DOES MY YEAR LOOK LIKE?
These pages are for prospective parents and students, or for current students. Here, a user can gain an understanding of what they will be doing throughout that grade level.
COC COURSE CATALOG
Here, a user can browse the community college classes that they can take as a student at our school. Classes are divided into our 8 defined pathways, and include course descriptions.
Ran two-part social media marketing campaign to recruit 150+ Academy alumni to share their career "roadmap," and to spread "hype" among current students about the organization and using the website.
Shared animated videos and informational posts about our organization's mission on Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Individually reached out to notable alumni based on their line of work or prestigious educational path by making phone calls, sending emails, and direct messaging.
PART I: RECRUITING ALUMNI
PART II: INFORMING CURRENT STUDENTS
Four-Year Course Plans
Crafted over 20 four-year coursework plans for students in each respective pathway or concentration, all of which reflect our brand identity. Coordinated with school counselor on feasibility of ed-plans, as well as all potential combinations of certifications or course sequences.
I truly think that developing the Helping Hand Program has been a culmination of the skills that I have learned up until this point, and I look forward to seeing the program evolve over time.
I strongly believe that every student deserves a fair chance to properly navigate the college process and to understand the stakes behind our rapidly-changing economy. As a student that felt blindsided by the college process, my hope is that the Helping Hand program will remain an integral component of the AOC experience, with the hope of ensuring the postsecondary success of the next cohort of students for years to come.
months of planning w/ faculty