How SMS supports the success of second-chance students.

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Across the United States, millions of older youth and adults who dropped out of high school are in need of a second chance at graduation. Smart Horizons Career Online Education (SHCOE), launched in 2009, helps meet this need by providing academic support to nontraditional students. Since it began, SHCOE has helped more than 14,000 students graduate — and enrollment continues to climb.

The challenge.

SHCOE wanted to scale their communication… without losing the personal touch. As a school designed for nontraditional students, SHCOE sees people from all walks of life. From single parents who quit school to put food on the table to immigrants new to the country, SHCOE students face serious challenges.

“It’s hard to stay motivated on something when you’re working a full-time job, raising children, running a household,” said Kelley Newman, Academic Coach Team Lead at SHCOE. “We’re there to serve as academic coaches and cheerleaders to help our students succeed.”

But with the school adding students faster than ever, SHCOE needed a way to communicate at scale while still making each and every student feel fully seen and supported.

The solution.

They decided to provide direct, immediate support through automated and personal SMS for students.

With so many students in need of academic coaching and support, SHCOE turned to our Mercury SMS integration as the perfect approach that would combine personal contact with automation. SHCOE uses Salesforce to manage student records, and Mercury SMS provides a great way for student coaches to automate standard messages, and also send personal (and sometimes motivational) messages to students.

“Not everything can or should be manually texted,” Kelley explained. “If I’m asking for transcripts, we can automate that. But if I notice a student has been missing assignments, SMS also gives me a way to reach out personally and ask if everything’s okay.” By using SMS to communicate, SHCOE’s academic coaches can handle caseloads of as many as 300 students without sacrificing personal attention.

The results.

Now students feel seen, valued, and motivated to graduate high school.

Those text messages remind them someone believes in them. Graduates tell us that if it wasn’t for those messages, they wouldn’t be here today.

Kelley Newman, Academic Coach Team Lead

While SMS automation has helped SHCOE to scale their student support, personal texting still accounts for as much as 80% of the communication students receive. This outreach is having an impact. “It helps students to get a quick response from their coach — they’re not refreshing their email or leaving a voicemail. The text messages make students feel like they’re your utmost priority,” Kelley said.

For students determined to get their diplomas, having a coach in close contact can make a life-changing difference. Kelley Newman says adding text messaging to their student communications mix has allowed the academic coaches to ensure each and every student feels fully seen and supported.


SHCOE offers affordable, career-based online high schools that serve adults and young adults who need high school diplomas in order to access better career and educational opportunities.


Kelley Newman, Academic Coach Team Lead



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