Mara Willemin is a 17-year-old DeWitt High School
student who’d be pretty goal-oriented for a 40-year-old, let alone a 17-year-old. She takes college courses, is the
student government president and a member of National Honor Society
Willemin graduates in 2009 and has her sites set on getting a dance and political science degree from Michigan State University
or the University of Michigan
Over the summer, Willemin interned with Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero’s office. She’s very impressed with local female politicians and inspired by the influential women who are making a difference in the area.
This week, Mara will give Capital Gains readers a glimpse into the tech-savvy mind of Generation Y. Mara discusses why her generation is so addicted to electronic communication, what this means for businesses and how they can benefit from this addiction.
All Photographs © Dave Trumpie
Recently I began completing my college applications. In doing so, I began to take note of the schools to which my classmates were sending applications.
While most students are applying to the largely acclaimed universities in Michigan, many are applying to smaller universities in Chicago, Ohio, and even places as far away as Georgia. Whether my classmates’ decisions are derived from academic interest, sports influence, or weather, most students claim to be afraid of a future in Michigan.
While high school students are thought to focus primarily on the glamorous life of Lauren Conrad in Los Angeles, or follow Bret Michaels on his path to finding a soul mate, teens are actually thinking about the ongoing problems with Michigan’s economy. Students are quick to take notice of the lack of jobs and tax increases. While the thought of financial futures seem distant, being unable to pay off college loans due to a decrease in job availability turns away many teens.
Besides being able to find jobs in different states with better pay, benefits, and security, many are interested in entertainment. The big cities with bustling streets and ongoing commotion draw students to the fancy night life and constant activity. Others are looking for more liberal environments than what (they perceive) Michigan can provide, such as the art schools of Chicago and New York City.
While students are interested in leaving Michigan for many individual reasons, familiarity is among the most common. I simply cannot begin to explain how many times I’ve overheard the phrase, “I just can’t wait to get out of here.” But the issue of familiarity also brings some perspective to why some students stay in Michigan. Personally, I find comfort in knowing the campus I’ve grown up next to. While many like the adventure of a new city and new faces, just as many are willing to live the life they know.
For as many students that are eager to leave, there are just as many who are willing to stay. Not everyone who stays in Michigan lives a life of unstable financial means, and many students are aware of this. Michigan has access to many exceptional colleges and universities. In fact,this alone draws thousands to the state every year. Of those who remain in Michigan, there truly are students interested in spending their lives dedicated to making a difference in Michigan.
Many students are simply unaware of the opportunities that Michigan has to offer. Companies in fields like IT and biotechnology provide plenty of jobs to Michigan residents, and will have plenty to offer in the future. Most students are not informed of job opportunities such as these. Personally, I was completely unaware of the prospect for jobs in these companies.
To keep students in Michigan and interested in these jobs, employers need to start “reaching out” to students as young as high school to influence their career pathways while they are deciding on colleges to attend. By doing this, many students will not only be inclined to stay in Michigan, but will help stabilize the struggling economy by keeping jobs in the state.
Many businesses are unaware of how reliant high school and college students are upon technology. By becoming conscious of these dependencies, employers may use social networking to appeal to this particular generation.
Take, for instance, the social connections of Facebook. All a business has to do is to create a “Group" comprised of information regarding an available position, a job description and some informative means of inquiry. All it takes is a quick “send” to a particular network of people and the business will reach several potential employees. Business can even choose students from particular high schools and colleges to market the positions to the correct demographic.
Besides using social connection networks such as Facebook, many high school students check a business’ Web site to find jobs. For instance, Eastwood Towne Center’s “Employment” section, offers a complete updated listing of stores currently hiring, the job position and contact information. I have personally used this site many times and also directed peers to the site.
If businesses were able to effectively update a system such as this, they would be able to reach out to the high school and college student population with greater success.
Another means of reaching out to this generation with current technology is through online scholarship and internship sources. During my recent search for college scholarships, I set up an account with an online program called Fastweb.
Through this program, students are able to set up apersonal account with detailed information, from their location to their interests. When scholarships match the student’s profile, they are notified. Similarly, when a business within a range of the student’s location is in search of employment, students are notified. Using programs such as these also helps to reach out to a generation becoming more technologically dependent.
By “getting on their level” or using their means of social networking, employers will be able to reach out to high school and college students more effectively. Through technology and by providing larger benefits, businesses will then be able to reach the high school and college students who will one day become the next working force of America.
Any high school or college student will likely tell you their cell phone never leaves their side and Facebook is a default homepage for their Internet browser. It’s second nature for my generation to sleep with charging cell phones next to our pillows, and to use text messaging as our No. 1 means of communication.
Until recently, I hadn’t really even noticed how reliant my generation is on technology. Walking on Michigan State University’s (MSU) campus, I was surprised to find that nearly every person I passed either had headphones in their ears, or cell phones in their hands, including myself. No different than any other student, I too fit into this “always connected” category.
I carry my phone with me everywhere. Whether heading downstairs to let my dog out or running an errand, my phone is always within reach. I even have my phone with me when I fall asleep. (Yes, it probably reads as pathetic as it feels; however, all laughs aside, it’s something I consider “normal.”) In the car, if I’m not sending a text message, I’m playing songs on my iPod library.
I even reviewed my previous month’s phone bill to check my text-to-call ratio. I was shocked to find only 34 minutes of call time, yet 3,486 text messages sent and received.
It goes without saying that I’ve heard, “Can’t you put your phone down for just one second? or “Do you always have to be connected to the world? Why can’t you just turn it off?” multiple times. But my generation doesn’t know anything else.
Like every new trend, technology has its own controversies, especially within the generation it surrounds. Mine, for example, faces debates over whether our technological dependency allows us to communicate effectively. I used to believe this idea was ridiculous. It wasn’t until this weekend when I was able to fully realize the truth of this accusation.
My best friend and I were expected to meet some people at 7:00 p.m. for the football game, but due to a long gas station line, we were running late. We both agreed to call our friends and explain we were going to be late. However, when she picked up her phone, she changed her mind and said, “I’ll just text her. I hate calling people.”
Technology certainly has had a large impact upon the lives of students socially, yet it has also affected the educational upbringing of today’s generation. Within the last 10 years, technology has become increasingly influential on education.
Simple homework assignments leave students resorting to Wikipedia, the free online encyclopedia, for information. Class syllabi used to be printed on paper and report cards were sent home quarterly. Today, students use online databases such as DeWitt High School’s “Infinite Campus,” or Michigan State University’s “Angel” to check grades and look for rubrics and assignments. Parents are allowed to access behavioral and disciplinary conduct recordson-line. Even elementary schools are shifting gears to using PowerPoint and online games as learning tools.
Although these technological advances have many benefits for connected
communication or as educational tools, my generation has reached an age
of technological dependency. It’s not uncommon to see students as young as fifth and sixth grade carrying around iPods or cell phones.
Technological engineers continue to come up with
additional ways for our generation to be connected, and we continue to
use Pix, Flix, and Video Messaging (to send a picture or video through
a phone), Facebook’s Wall-to-Wall and Web Cams to communicate.
It’s what we know. Lifestyles based on technology are here to stay, and businesses need to adapt to this "always connected" mentality.