When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in the spring of 2020, almost all Oregon schools were closed and learning went remote. At least 45,000 graduating students had no or little access to information about college and postsecondary prospects and the mentoring that makes the process a positive experience.
Oregon State University Extension Service’s Open Campus realized an opportunity to help these students and their families connect with what they need for a successful journey from high school to college or other postsecondary prospects.
Under the guidance of Jennifer Oppenlander, Open Campus manager, and Jose Garcia, Open Campus coordinator, the team started a virtual, live program called College Talk Tuesdays to connect high school students, community college students and families to share information for making informed and practical decisions about continuing their education after high school.
Sessions started on Tuesdays in April 2020 via Zoom in Deschutes, Crook and Jefferson counties. The digital format allowed students from around the state to participate.
“The pandemic brought out the benefits of being able to connect online,” Oppenlander said. “I feel like we need a lot more of that. Students respond very positively and we get a bigger audience that includes a wider range of people – teachers, partners, parents.”
The talks cover topics such as: how to apply to college and housing and then get involved on campus; how to sign up for work study positions or get financial aid; and how to upload immunization records. The program has been marketed through emails to counselors, administrators, mentors and through social media. The talks have been recorded and uploaded to the College Talk Tuesdays webpage and to the Open Campus YouTube channel.
Community members, educators and students, past and present, came together to make 91 videos – with more to come – that represent an extensive library of resources. The sessions were designed to be one topic at a time so students could focus on what they are most interested in.
In 2020, about 150 people around the state registered for the talks and the videos had been viewed more than 330 times. College Talk Tuesdays has given students the opportunity to personally connect with people who know the system and can unlock the mysteries of higher education. As an added benefit, the information is now available for educators who are working with students across the state.