News + Ideas
August 27, 2012
The NewSchools Seed Fund looks for spots in the K-12 landscape where technology can support, enhance and personalize learning, especially for those students who need it most. To this end, we’re excited to welcome a new, early-stage technology company that helps high schools support their students’ quest for college. By capturing short video alumni stories, graduates pay it forward by offering candid advice and inspiration to current students.
It’s called Mytonomy and it’s a near-peer network meaning that students are learning from those who are socially several degrees closer than they might find in a generic Google search. While helpful for all students, it’s especially powerful for first generation kids who are pioneering their path to college and often lack the live networks where college advice is informally shared. Schools can use the service to build an archive of alumni social capital, and create an “always on” stream of counseling content from credible and relevant sources, and that can overtime, be tailored.
The advice runs the gamut from the tactical (what to do if you’re waitlisted) to reflections (if I knew then what I know now) to the practical (use your smartphone as an alarm clock).
Take for example Arceli Valz, who arrived in the US from Mexico City as a sophomore and is now a freshman at Virginia Tech. Arceli imparts her story of self-advocating for enrollment in AP classes (she passed 5 AP classes her senior year!). Dominque Merriweather now a junior at Morehouse and KIPP DC grad shares his advice for selecting letters of recommendation. Video’s are in Spanish too.
While use cases will vary and no doubt evolve, Mytonomy targets support at high school guidance counselors, often a student’s only source for college knowledge. Hit hard by budget cuts, school guidance counselors are stretched impossibly thin, carrying an average caseload of 470 students (in California, it’s 1000:1). If we very generously suppose the average counselor can schedule five one-hour meetings per day for a 180 day school year – each student will have received less than 2 hours of assistance to prep, select and apply for college. Not intended to be a comprehensive solution, Mytonomy supplements the guidance counselor with content they can deploy as needed in a format favorable to how digital natives intake information.
It activates alumni networks to broaden college support for current students, while providing an easy way for working professionals to share career advice. If you grew up in Southeast DC, you may not know anyone that works at Facebook and could explain “what is product management”, but now you do.
Founded by ex-Googler Vinay Bhargava and school counselor Sean Burke, Mytonomy was started with a vision to better connect the dots between high school, college and career with a recognition that peer influence is incredibly powerful and can be channeled for good. I can’t wait to see how Mytonomy grows and expands it’s reach. It’s already captured something really special – the generosity of the human spirit to support one another’s goals.
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