Students, teachers partner with businesses for digital communications upgrade

by: TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Casey Wise and Paige Colorito were asked by their teacher, Katherine Robinson, to take on the new, social media-based communications initiative at Beaverton High School.As Beaverton High School teachers and administrators mulled over ways to improve communications among staff, parents, students and the outside community earlier this year, it was clear the time to boldly go beyond bulletin boards and monthly mailings had more than arrived.

Why, mused Principal Anne Erwin, should the school not share its stories and information in the same way students and an increasing number of parents interact outside the classroom?

"A lot of parents are using Facebook. Their kids are using Twitter," she said. "They're using all these ways of getting their message out — whatever the message."

Partnering with local technology businesses last spring and summer, school leaders developed a common, 21st century-based communications strategy that incorporates Facebook, Twitter and photo-oriented Instagram with a revamped, student-helmed website to share news and information both within and without the BHS campus at 13000 S.W. Second St.

There's even a smartphone app to take you directly to the sources, where one can read or watch a video spotlighting current students and notable alumni, get inspired by the "Theme of the Week," catch up on the schedule of the Beavers' athletic teams or discover ways to support the school with their time, talents and donations.

The new platform is also handy for drier pursuits such as families seeking convenient access to student grades and emailing teachers. Students, of course, can also check up on their own academic performance while accessing academic resources.

"This partnership resulted in the launching of a compete system of new, robust and exciting tools for communication," Erwin said. "The presence of the application as an element of the BHS communication strategy greatly enhances our ability to communicate to students, families and the community. We’re able to get out updated information about current activities at future events, and to celebrate our successes."

Left Brian Right Brain Marketing provided technical expertise to update the school's website into something more streamlined and user friendly. Portland-based AngelVision Technologies created an "Impact Movie" designed to assist the school in reaching out to the community to raise awareness and invite the community connection.

Jeff Otis, founder of AngelVision and a 1985 Beaverton High graduate, said it was fun working with Erwin, parents, teachers and students to help his alma mater share information and stories.

"It really helps BHS continue its tradition of being a vibrant school within the downtown Beaverton area," he said. "There are always people who want to be involved (in the school community), but a lot of time they don't know what help is needed. This helps bridge that gap with the day to day, what's going on in Beaverton High. It shines a light on a lot of exciting things."

"They had a handball, racquetball team that was second (place) in the country," he added. "Most people are not aware of that. Part of the goal is to connect these stories, find ways to (get people) involved and take Beaverton to the next level."

With business and marketing teacher Katherine Robinson providing oversight, guidance and support, a small cadre of students led by seniors Paige Colorito and Casey Wise manages the social media element of the communications effort through the BHS Facebook, Twitter, InstaGram and Google+ sites.

"I took it upon myself and let the girls run with it," Robinson said of the pilot program she hopes to expand into a marketing course in the 2014-15 school year. "It comes down to, how do you communicate messages to the school and its publics that's positive and informative, and reaches them the way they want to be reached?"

Wise said it was one of the cooler assignments handed to her as a student.

"It was the first day of school," Wise recalled. "(Robinson) said I have a project for you guys. We went from there. I love it."

Regular posts include key information about upcoming events, the BHS "Alum of the Week," a staff member profile, tips on being successful in school and pictures of activities and events.

"I definitely feel like we put out good stuff," Wise said, noting she and Colorito worked with Jeff Otis on a 36-week plan. "I don't see many schools that necessarily have a unified vision like this."

Running the social media forums of your school's website also has its perks, such as getting to interview such well-known alumni as National Public Radio correspondent Ari Shapiro and noted singer/songwriters Soshanna Bean and Todd Snider.

"The experience has taught me a lot," Colorito said. "We get to meet and talk to a lot of cool people."

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