High school students in California put on their own live, online debt-free college event…
…with a nationally-known author as their guest!
Students at your local high school could do this exact same thing—using the clear easy instructions at the bottom of this article. (And if students can do it—caring school staff can certainly do it! With very little time and no money spent.)
Keep reading, and you’ll be invited to hear the recording of the exact online event these students put on.
“Students put this online event on? What exactly did they do?”
This last November, students in a lunchtime club called The Financial Association at Santa Susana High School in Simi Valley, California asked themselves, “What can we do to help our community? We want to help students and parents with something really important that’s related to finance—and we want it to be super interesting.”
These students set up a Zoom webinar, invited students, parents, and school staff from every school in their district, and then interviewed the author of the book LAUNCH: How to Get Your Kids Through College Debt-Free and Into Jobs They Love Afterward live—taking questions from the audience at the end.
(If you listen to the recording below, you’ll hear both the questions the student interviewers asked, and the very interesting questions that came in from the audience.)
If you’d like to do this, these students suggest you take these 9 easy steps:
Print these steps out for easy reference.
1. Contact author Jeannie Burlowski via the phone number on the SPEAKING tab on her website.
Schedule a date.
Jeannie speaks for public and low income school districts for free, and she also provides help with this event-planning process.
2. Ask school administration for permission to hold this live Zoom event.
To get the fastest yes from school administration, SSHS students went straight to the top to ask permission. They called the office of their district’s School Superintendent. “We want to put on this event for all the middle schools and high schools in our school district. It won’t cost us anything to get the speaker. You can see how other schools have benefitted from having an event like this by looking at this SCHOOL STAFF link. Will you give us permission?”
The School Superintendent—impressed—said yes, absolutely—and sincerely complimented the students for their leadership.
3. Locate a large school-based Zoom account that can accommodate 500 or more webinar attendees.
The SSHS students planning this event knew that the school had such an account—but which school adult held the password to it? A problem to solve.
They asked several adults in administration. Finally, the students got what they needed by identifying the adult at the school who students tend to believe most cares about students. (In this case it happened to be a caring school counselor.)
The students asked this caring adult to help them figure out who held the password to the school Zoom account.
Within days the students had a webinar scheduled that included both a “practice session” and “Q&A” in the Zoom set-up, capability for recording the event for later distribution, a QR code attendees could use to sign up for the event (learn how to make your own QR code here), and the necessary Zoom “panelist links” so that student interviewers and Mrs. Burlowski could talk live on the webinar.
4. Actively promote the event. (Remember, the more students and parents who attend this, the more good will come from it.)
SSHS students brainstormed a list of places where they could advertise the event for free.
“We’ll put this on all our social media accounts for sure,” they said. “And we’ll get our parents to put it on their social media accounts, and we’ll put notice about it in all the school newsletters at all the high schools and all the middle schools in our school district.
If we try to submit a notice to a school newsletter and we don’t hear back from the newsletter person, we’ll call the principal of that school and say, “Can you please get this into your newsletter? We have the permission of the school superintendent.
Plus—we’ll see if we can get our own school newspaper to do a front page article about it—and we’ll ask local newspapers in our city to run an article about this event for free. And let’s figure out who our school’s public relations staff person is. He or she will have some ideas too.”
Learning to promote an event in this way was a great learning experience for the students.
5. Create an image for catching attention in social media.
SSHS students asked Mrs. Burlowski, the author, for her headshot—and then used canva.com to create an image for advertising the event.
They emailed the image they’d created to Mrs. Burlowski to get her feedback, and then they re-sized the image for Facebook and Instagram using canva.com tools.
The image the students created for their November 30th, event is on the left, here:
6. Ask Mrs. Burlowski to email you some good questions to ask when interviewing her on event night.
Two SSHS students made a plan to be together—in person—on event night, appearing together on one camera with the questions printed out in front of them.
7. For students planning this event—ask a caring adult from the school to be with you on Zoom on event night to troubleshoot any tech problems that might arise, and to screen the questions coming in from the audience.
In the recording below you’ll see the adult screening the questions that came in from the audience, and then asking the incoming questions herself. It can also work to have the adult screen the questions and then quickly email the best questions to the students doing the interviewing so they can ask the questions.
8. Students, after the online event is over, work with your caring adult to have a recording of the interview (along with helpful links mentioned in the interview) posted on the school district website.
After the event was over, SSHS students submitted a short article containing the event recording to the newsletters of all the middle schools and high schools in their school district.
9. Finally, take one last step—empower students at all income and academic levels to apply for scholarships using one essay that can be used again and again.
In the weeks after this Zoom event was over, the SSHS students who planned the event publicized this free, 34-minute scholarship training in all the middle school and high school newsletters in their school district.
And of course, they watched this scholarship training themselves—during one of their group meetings! After all—planning an event like this one makes a fantastic opening story for a scholarship application essay that can be used over and over again.
(Teachers, feel free to show this 34-minute training to your middle school or high school students—and require them to write one reusable scholarship application essay using these principles.)
Do students—or staff members—at your school want to host an event like this?
Doing so will make a great opening story for a college or scholarship application essay!
The next step is easy—just email Jeannie@JeannieBurlowski.com to set a live event date.
Then print out paper copies of this article for each person planning this event.
Students, your local Rotary Club may help you set up an event like this.
Many Rotary clubs sponsor Interact clubs that bring together young people ages 12–18 to develop leadership skills while discovering the power of Service Above Self. If your local Rotary club sponsors an Interact club, ask any local Rotary club member for the name of the local Rotarian that mentors the Interact students. Show him or her this article—and ask for help setting up this event.
Here—view the recording of this student-led event now.
(Part of the intro got cut off during school district production—but just zip to about 40 seconds in, and you’ll get straight to the good part.)
Help us spread the word about this!
It’s our goal to help as many families as possible. Copy this entire article and paste it right into your school, business, civic organization, or homeschool newsletter. Put a link to it in your Facebook group! It’s all free.
And if you’ve found valuable info in this article, please help by tweeting it out to the students and adults who follow you.
For clear, step-by-step help getting students through college debt-free and into jobs they love afterward, get a copy of my book:
It’s a reference book, so nobody reads the whole thing cover to cover. Pick out what you need to read in it using the fast-paced, 10-minute video instructions here.
You can see hundreds of reviews of this book on Amazon by going to:
You can see why financial advising professionals love LAUNCH, here.
You can see the top 9 questions parents are asking me about LAUNCH, here.
Read just one chapter of LAUNCH every 1–3 months while your child’s in middle school and high school, and you’ll know every viable strategy for debt-free college at exactly the right time to implement it.
And if your child’s already well past middle school? That’s OK; you can run to catch up. But the process of getting your kids through college debt-free goes more smoothly the earlier you start it—especially if you’re not planning to save up any money to pay for college.
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Who is Jeannie Burlowski?
Jeannie is a full-time academic strategist, podcast host, and sought-after speaker for students ages 12–26, their parents, and the professionals who serve them. Her writing, speaking, and podcasting help parents set their kids up to graduate college debt-free, ready to jump directly into careers they excel at and love. Her work has been featured in publications such as The Huffington Post, USA Today, Parents Magazine, and US News and World Report, and on CBS News.