TIAA-CREF volunteers give cyber advice to Vance High teens

Nov 3, 2015 | Events

TIAA-CREF volunteers

Volunteers from TIAA-CREF gather for orientation at the start of their day at Vance High School

Fifty volunteers from TIAA-CREF spent Oct. 1 at Vance High School, giving advice to 600 students on ways to prevent and cope with online cruelty, often called cyber-bullying. The volunteers also discussed the importance of maintaining a positive digital “footprint” – the first impression a potential college or employer might get when they conduct an online search of you.

“Around 50 volunteers took over all of our courses,” said Matthew Wykoff, coordinator of Vance High’s career and Technical Education Academy and director of the Vance Academy of Engineering. “One and sometimes two people volunteered in our classrooms all day long. Three videos were used to open the discussions, and then the volunteers just shared their personal experiences.”

TIAA-CREF has adopted the four schools of the University Research Park Governors Village as its school partner in the Charlotte region. Jarian Kerekes, Director of Corporate Social Responsibility at TIAA-CREF, organized the Oct. 1 event with Wykoff.

First step to fighting cyber-bullying – don’t share hurtful posts

One goal was to help students understand that cruelty can escalate rapidly online, because people often feel they are anonymous on the Internet. Volunteers used video presentations and discussions with students explore ways they can lessen the effects of this online cruelty – beginning with simply not passing along hurtful posts that they receive from others.

Watch your digital footprint as you travel the Internet

Wykoff suggested that the TIAA-CREF volunteers also discuss a related topic – the lasting and powerful impact of each student’s digital footprint. This is the sum of all of our online activities, including personal information, classroom records and social-media posts.

“How can we keep this online imprint positive?” reads a program description prepared by TIAA-CREF. “It’s difficult for young adults to consider their long-term future, like a college acceptance or job opportunities, but as adults we know how vital a first online impression will be.”

Volunteers asked Vance students to consider what their digital footprint might tell others about them now, and how their footprint might influence a neighbor looking for a babysitter, a coach looking for new team members or a college choosing its next freshman class.

“We did a survey afterward, and based on the students who responded, it was a very positive experience that got them thinking more about what a digital footprint is, how they are creating one and the implications of it,” Wykoff said.

Learn how your business can help Vance High students

Both the Vance Academy of Engineering and the Technical Education Academy provide classroom study and work-based learning to prepare students for college and careers. Visit the Vance Academy of Engineering website to learn about the program and recent activities, or contact Matthew Wykoff at




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