As schools across the country do their best to adapt to online learning, one particular group has been thriving with their virtual platform: the Heritage Student Ambassadors.
The Ambassadors, whose main role is to organize Shadow Days for prospective students, have faced the unique complication of having to restructure Shadow Days to a completely online format.
“It’s been a challenge, but we have the right group of people to meet that challenge,” says Leah Maloney ’22, who is in her first year of being a Student Ambassador. “It’s been a lot of work, especially for the leaders in Ambassadors. They’ve done a great job organizing it in a way that is engaging but also virtual. There’s been a lot of preparation, and we’re learning every single time.”
Due to restrictions on visitors in the building, Shadow Days have been moved completely to Google Meets this year. Despite this, the Ambassadors are still doing their best to give prospective students the full Heritage experience, explains Ms. Jill Rickard, the Ambassadors Coordinator.
“We started out with the framework that we had from in person shadow days,” Rickard says. “We took that framework and said, ‘Okay, what’s the best way to give students the best opportunity to understand the heart of Heritage without actually coming in the doors?’ Because Heritage is all about the feel, it’s about how you feel when you come in. So we tried to think about how we could do that.”
Students and parents begin their Shadow Day together in the same Google Meet, just as they would have started together in the auditorium for an in-person Shadow Day. After hearing from Principal Riendeau and watching a video created by the Ambassadors, parents go to a separate breakout session for a Q&A while Shadows play icebreakers with the Ambassadors and talk about athletics, activities and academics at Heritage.
Rickard reports that there can be as many as 60 Shadows attending one Shadow Day during a regular school year. With this year’s limits, however, those numbers have been significantly lower.
“The very first Shadow Day we had 10 students, and that was us limiting it because we wanted to try it out for the first one,” Rickard explains. “Since then it’s been around 20 Shadows each time and their parents.”
Thanks to the commitment of the Ambassadors, Rickard explains, seven out of ten Shadows applied for open enrollment within three hours after the very first Shadow Day.
“I think people are generally excited to see what Heritage is about and they’re thankful that we offer that,” Maloney adds.
While the Ambassadors have seen much success so far with virtual Shadow Days, there were several hurdles they had to jump first.
“Security has been a concern with it being virtual, so we’ve had to make sure everyone has their cameras and mics on, and that’s something we’ve had to adapt to,” Maloney says.
Maloney continued, “Creating something that’s engaging is also difficult to do virtually, because we don’t want to just put a presentation on and have them listen to us talk.”
Mrs. Becky Moody, counseling secretary and Ambassadors Coordinator, shared similar concerns about creating an engaging experience, but the Ambassadors have found ways to encourage participation from the Shadows.
“Surprisingly the 8th grade shadows have stepped up and asked questions and participated in our mornings. We were so concerned that they would be too nervous,” she says.
Because the Ambassadors were willing to share their own stories from their time as freshmen, Moody explains, the Shadows have been more willing to break out of their shells as well.
“You can literally see the shadows relax when they realize other people have been scared and new,” Moody says.
Additionally, the Ambassadors had to practice with the technology beforehand to ensure the Shadow Days ran smoothly, which requires an enormous team effort, Rickard says.
“Mrs. Moody practices the night before, the morning of, and makes sure everything is ready to go, and Ms. Andrews is right there helping her. Ms. Lieb and Ms. Lambert have come on during Shadow Days just so if we have a problem, they could help us figure out what to do right there on the spot,” Rickard explains. “They’ve been terrific. They’re our extra Ambassadors in a way, because they have really helped us a lot.”
Although Shadow Days look quite different from normal years, the Ambassadors’ objective remains unchanged.
“Our goal is to share the heart and inclusiveness that we feel when we walk through the halls at Heritage through this virtual meeting,” says Moody.
While a virtual format is not ideal, the Ambassadors have repeatedly fulfilled their goal of creating a memorable Heritage experience for the Shadows.
“The motto we live by as Ambassadors,” Rickard explains, “is a quote by Maya Angelou: ‘People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.’ That’s our motto; we’re going to make people feel in such a way, or about themselves or their experience, that they don’t forget it. They won’t remember what we said on Shadow Day, they won’t remember they played this game, but they will remember how they felt, and that’s what makes them want to come to Heritage.”
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