Granite Edvance Education and Career Counselor Eric Lofstedt never knows what awaits him when he walks through the doors of the My Turn adult education program in Manchester. Sometimes just a couple of students show up, sometimes a roomful. Some know exactly what they want for their future, others are trying to find their footing.
On this rainy morning, Eric starts his presentation with a simple question: “Does anyone know what you want to do?”
The answers are mostly tentative. Massage therapist? Architect? Maybe an LNA?
Eric responds back with enthusiasm to each, adding a dose of legitimacy to ideas some may be voicing for the first time. “Great career. … fantastic…. absolutely.”
Despite the unpredictable nature of his work here, his goal is always essentially the same.
“The basic idea is to help you figure out what you want to do next, and if you already know what you want to do next, how to get there,” he explains to the students.
Next comes a presentation that covers the gamut, from choosing a career to considering training options, to paying for college or trade school. Afterward, Eric helps students one-on-one with their specific needs. One student needs assistance completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Another has questions about a scholarship. A third needs help with a practice test.
“Every time I go in, it’s different,” he says.
Just as there is no typical day at the My Turn Adult Education Program, there is no typical student. Most are working on earning their certificate of high school equivalency. A few have completed the program but need some specific supports. Students of all ages and backgrounds attend the free program and are welcome to enroll at any time.
“The circumstances that bring people to us are wildly varied,” explained Wil Crabtree, an instructor at My Turn, a nonprofit education and job-training agency with centers across NH and North Central, MA. Some students have experienced serious disruptions to their high school education, from car accidents to health issues. Some are immigrants who need further schooling because the work qualifications from their home country don’t transfer. A few are home-schooled students who just need their formal credential to go on to college. Many of the current students are still trying to get their education back on track after being derailed by COVID.
Once they’re back on track, students need to find a way to move forward. That’s where Granite Edvance comes in. The regular presentations, which began about a year ago, have allowed My Turn to offer an effective bridge to college and career options.
“It’s been a tremendous positive change,” Crabtree said. “Our students are often first-generation students. Having someone walk them through step-by-step is an amazing resource for them.”
The counselors’ expertise in financial aid is especially valuable. Many students have misconceptions about financial aid or simply don’t know how to pursue it.
Ahmed Saleqne, who is applying to the cybersecurity program at Manchester Community College, worked with Eric to file his FAFSA. “It was very helpful to me,” he said.
Some students have been able to go on to two- or four-year college or find careers that meet their needs. One student secured a sizeable scholarship to Plymouth State University and is currently studying there.
Others are still figuring out their next steps. But just having someone who’s on their side and can point them in the right direction can make a big difference, Crabtree said.
“They’re really happy to have the information under their belt and know that there’s someone else who can help them,” he said.