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WHS students launch tech tool for high school students

Posted: Monday, Aug 26th, 2013

Watsonville High School students Paola Magana (from left), Elizabeth Sanchez and GIIP coordinator Thomas Gelder during UCSC summer technology camp. (Contributed photo)

WATSONVILLE — To help fellow high school students, from freshman year on, navigate the road to university, a group of Watsonville High School technology students have developed a mobile application, called WHS College Mentor, available now for Android smartphones.

The students — six girls, six boys, sophomores through seniors — are part of Watsonville Tec, an IT career pathway program for PVUSD students in middle school and high school interested in technology.

In June, the group celebrated its first batch of high school graduates, a group of university-bound girls who first joined the group as 6th graders when it was called the Girl Game Company and they learned how to design video games.

This summer, the 12 Watsonville Tec students attended a five-night technology and leadership camp, called Youth Empowerment Institute, at UCSC, hosted by Global Information Internship Program (GIIP), an undergraduate fellowship program at UCSC and funded by a grant from Community Foundation Santa Cruz County.

Over the five days, students broke into pairs and researched the college pathway — all the things students should do each year to get to college, and as the mobile application is geared toward Watsonville High School students, key contacts like guidance counselors and local scholarship databases to include in their mobile application.

Divided into categories – Academics, Resources, Credits, Financial Aid, Colleges, Testing, Community College, Personal Statement, the mobile application contains an informative mix of explainer text (“Majors/Minors: What are they?”), links to important websites, insight (“What schools are known for what majors?”) and tips (there is a section on fee waivers for PSAT/SAT/ACT).

The application is easy to navigate, and the text is plainly written with a young person’s matter-of-fact tone: “You basically have to make yourself stand out and give the administration a reason to choose you,” explains the section on personal statements.

Viewed as an important tool for delivering relevant information to students, Watsonville Tec program director Jacob Martinez said the mobile application could help engage students in the college preparation process even if they think they are too young yet to give it a second thought.

“For so many kids you are coming in as a freshman and you don't know where to start, or you don't think it’s important,” said Martinez. “But from day one, if you have all those tools on your phone, if you have a question — the answer is there.”

Martinez said the mobile application could have great implications for the school district as well and sees it as a way for staff to communicate directly with students.

Built with the cross-platform jQuery mobile framework, Martinez said WHS College Mentor has also been submitted to the App Store for use on the iPhone and they are currently waiting to hear if its been approved.

Martinez said after just five days of development time, the application is “more like a pilot” and they hope to have multiple versions – one specifically for Pajaro Valley High School, add more features and generally improve it over time and they are looking for funding to continue with the work.

To find the mobile application search WHS College Mentor App on Google Play.

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