As a BRACE Cadet, Nia Lewis believes in serving her fellow students by meeting them where they are.

Broward County’s (Broward Advisors for Continuing Education) BRACE Cadets are high school students who implement special projects in their schools to help their peers get ready for college, career, and to succeed in life once they graduate.

According to Nia, a senior at Millennium 6-12 Collegiate Academy in Tamarac — the place where high school students increasingly are these days is social media.

“So many students are on social media for hours every day,” said Nia, who is the senior manager of the BRACE Cadets social media team. “So, using it to reach them in an educational way is taking advantage of the time we all spend on these sites and turning it into something that can positively affect their future.”

Earlier this school year, Nia and her fellow BRACE social media cadets participated in a training led by Sachs Media Group.

Yvonne Green — College, Career & Life Readiness Specialist for Broward County Public Schools — said the purpose of the training was to improve engagement with students by refining and building upon the quality of the BRACE Cadets’ existing social media activities.

Some of their past social media campaigns include FAFSA 123, in which the cadets tackled the federal financial aid form by posting small chunks of information to help students understand it, and Finishing Stronger, which featured the cadets and some of their student peers sharing how the previous year had affected them and how they overcame the challenges they faced.

“The campaign allowed the students to work on a project from start to finish with a coherent message, as opposed to just putting up posts,” Green said. She added that while most BRACE Cadets work independently, the social media campaigns involve working in groups of at least four people, which helps develop students’ soft skills.

Green said there are about 90 BRACE Cadets overall. That includes about 20 students in the Social Media team, which is the largest in that cohort since the BRACE Cadets launched in spring 2019.

“Some of them create posts for their schools and work closely with BRACE advisors,” Green said. “There’s also a team that creates content for and manages our district-wide BRACE Cadets social media.”

During the recent social media training, the cadets learned how to create a posting schedule by tracking users’ highest time of activity, how to engage with followers in different ways (such as polls), and the varying levels of importance of hashtags on different platforms.

“I think the training was affirming for some kids, and more instructive for others,” Green said.

Nia said the cadets have already applied the techniques they learned to generate positive results.

“We have been applying some of the training we received, and our engagement increased by over 10% in just one month, and the number of accounts we have reached has gone up by more than 150%,” Nia said.

There are also social media campaigns centered around mental health and College Decision Day planned for the spring semester.

While some of the social media tips and tricks have paid immediate dividends for the BRACE Cadets, Nia said the biggest thing she learned is that continuous learning is a requirement to thrive in this space.

“The most eye-opening part was the statement that social media is forever changing,” Nia said. “The techniques and tools that we use now may fall out of style in a few months. Social media is fast-paced by design, so we have to keep an open mind when we think about managing its use.”


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