Genesys Works: Helping Students Succeed in College & Careers
Genesys Works is a nonprofit social enterprise that helps high school students in underserved areas find pathways to career success. The program’s goal is helping students succeed both in college and their careers. Genesys Works does this by providing students with skills training, meaningful work experiences, and impactful relationships. This helps students realize early on that a professional career and financial independence are well within their reach.
Students work through the program in 14 months. During this time, they spend around 1,200 hours in training, at a professional job, and spending roughly 60 hours in college prep/career counseling sessions. This helps students build confidence, gain in-demand job skills, and increase their career aspirations.
During their time as a Genesys Works participant, students participate in…
- An 8-week technical/professional skills training program that prepares them for the workplace,
- A paid, year-long internship during their senior year, which allows students to earn roughly $12,000,
- College and career coaching as students navigate college and career pathways, and
- Ongoing alumni support to help students achieve college and career success.
Genesys Works Q&A
To learn more about how Genesys Works has used the Signal Vine platform in helping students succeed in college and careers, we interviewed Amelie Smith, Alumni Program Lead based in Houston, TX. Further, we posed site-specific questions to two other staff members who work from various locations in the country:
- Jackie Bisson, College Success Specialist (based in Twin Cities, MN)
- Robert Lloyd, College Success Advisor (based in Chicago, IL)
Q: What challenges were you facing that led you to Signal Vine?
Amelie (Houston, TX):
Many alumni shared that they didn’t regularly view emails. Further, we struggled to reach alumni via phone. As a result, Genesys Works began sending text messages to alumni through multiple numbers and forums. While we tried this approach, we didn’t have an efficient or systematic process to capture metrics such as how many alumni were receiving texts, how many responded, and how many texted us. Many alumni were unable to stay connected because we didn’t have a central number to use to reach out to Genesys Works team members.
Q: How did Signal Vine help you address these barriers in helping students succeed?
Since we launched Signal Vine, our alumni found it much easier to stay connected to us. Signal Vine enabled Genesys Works team members to have an efficient and systematic process to share opportunities or resources with alumni. Further, we are able to capture the percentage of alumni who view and respond to our texts. Signal Vine has equipped our staff members to share with alumni information aligned with their goals, colleges, and communities. As a result, a higher number of our alumni are equipped with resources and knowledge from Genesys Works staff members to achieve their college and career goals.
Q: What was the implementation process like for you?
Signal Vine’s implementation resources were very comprehensive and clear. Whenever we had questions about the platform, Signal Vine staff quickly and thoroughly responded to them. As our alumni programming and number of staff members grew, Signal Vine staff have equipped us with the knowledge and tools to seamlessly scale our efforts at multiple locations. Overall, we used Signal Vine data and resources to enhance the impact our services have on alumni.
Q: What are the results you’ve seen since implementing Signal Vine?
We used text messages to provide alumni with applicable and concise techniques they should use to pursue their determined college and career paths. We significantly impacted alumni by identifying and sending targeted messages related to their communities, college, or career plans and number of years from when they graduated from high school.
Q: Do you tend to communicate with students differently now?
Jackie (Twin Cities, MN):
Currently, we text around 405 students from our Twin Cities location. I’ve found that emailing or calling them is more successful when followed up with a text. I have the most success in receiving a response from students through Signal Vine. Also, it has been beneficial to ask them to send in pictures of information they need assistance with – financial aid letters, tuition bills, transcripts, etc.
Robert (Chicago, IL):
We text more than 400 alumni from Chicago. We use Signal Vine as the first wave of communication that is not lengthy. If it is long, we will text alumni through Signal Vine to check their email.
Q: What are some best practices you’ve gathered in terms of texting students?
We’ve found that a higher number of Genesys Works alumni respond to us when we send them action-based messages or questions. Many alumni were positively impacted when we sent messages to groups of alumni who had common college/career plans or enrolled in the same postsecondary institution. These approaches have led to more alumni being prepared with targeted and timely skills or knowledge to achieve their goals.
Jackie (Twin Cities):
- Make a mix of fun texts (e.g. “Send in a pic of your favorite place to study”) and important reminders (e.g. “The FAFSA is open!”). Students engage more overall once we have asked for “fun” responses.
- I have found that engaging with students who respond to the general messages (e.g. “Happy New Year!” or “Send us an academic goal you have this semester”) has been a good way to draw out other questions students might have or ways we can support them. Also, this has helped us get responses from students who have been unresponsive in the past.
- Texting students reminders the day of a campus visit or meeting with them has been great to help increase event attendance.
- Be firm and respectful with students. Avoid phrases such as, “If you’d like,” or, “At your convenience.” Instead, use phrases like, “Please [complete action] by [deadline].”
- From my experience, students are more likely to respond if you text them around the lunch hour – between 10:30 AM and 1:00 PM.
- Personalize when possible. I do this using Signal Vine’s profile fields feature. Using the student’s name makes the message feel like it’s not a mass text message.
Being able to view the analytics dashboard on the platform has been helpful in knowing when the best time is to text students. This helps us get students to engage with us.
Signal Vine has made it a lot easier to stay in contact with our 400+ students. This platform has made my job easier, and because the youth of today respond to text messages more than emails, this has been a great tool to meet them in the middle!
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