As the challenges of distance learning transition into virtual graduation celebrations, our Career & College Center coordinator Chris Stoltenberg is making sure that seniors at Wellstone International High School have all the support they need to land at college this fall.
Most Wellstone students come from immigrant families who arrived in Minnesota from all over the world. These young people and their parents alike have had to learn how to navigate brand new educational, economic and cultural systems – with COVID-19 now adding several additional layers of complexity in their lives.
“In many ways college has taken a back seat with all of the day-to-day challenges students have faced this spring,” says Chris. “A lot of our students are older and work to support their families. Many were hit with lay-offs during the pandemic. And most have confronted major difficulties in accessing technology and adjusting to online learning, which is especially tough for English language learners.”
When school buildings closed in March, Chris joined Wellstone teachers and staff in providing practical support for students while staying focused on his most pressing tasks: assisting students with college decision-making and securing financial aid. He makes sure students have submitted all necessary paperwork, provides personalized advising on financial aid resources, keeps them informed about shifting deadlines, and works with them and their families to compare programs and costs so they can feel confident about their post-graduation plans.
Chris also connects students one-on-one with experienced Wellstone alumni who are now in college and eager to share their personal experience and advice on navigating the application process, college culture and the realities of campus and academic life. With the support of a Minneapolis Education Leadership Awards grant, these alums are also creating multilingual videos for students on basic career and college 101 topics such as completing the FAFSA, seeking scholarships, doing interviews and creating resumes.
“I feel so fortunate to work with a team of school leaders, teachers and staff who are doing such great work in this unprecedented and challenging time," says Chris. "Our administrators in particular have done an amazing job of making sure that staff know it’s o.k. to prioritize other things besides learning the capitols of Europe! What’s most critical right now is addressing the basic needs of our students and making sure they’re on solid ground for the future. We work with such amazing young people and will do anything possible to continue supporting them beyond graduation in the weeks and months ahead."