student cooks potatoes

Balancing a checkbook, writing a resume, following the stock market, and changing a flat tire are just a few life skills that Hun students will have mastered come graduation thanks to Olivia Albanese ’13, counseling and wellness teacher, and her Life Skills and College Readiness course. 

In 2017, when Ms. Albanese was completing her undergraduate degree at the University of South Carolina, her senior thesis investigated the need for a life skills class at the college level. She surveyed hundreds of students and assessed the need of a life skills course as well as asked students what they would be interested in learning. After receiving an overwhelmingly positive response, Ms. Albanese developed a curriculum and syllabus for the course. 

A graduate of Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, Ms. Albanese joined the Hun community in 2017 as a member of the School’s Counseling Department. Now, she tailors this course to the needs of high school students and offers it as an elective to all senior and postgraduate students. 

This student-driven, skill building course begins each semester with a student survey to evaluate which topics students are most interested in learning. Ms. Alabanese then tweaks the syllabus accordingly and they jump right in. Topics include budgeting and personal finance, nutrition, media literacy, civic engagement, gender identity and sexual orientation, job interview prep, emergency preparedness and self-defense and many more. 

Ms. Albanese notes that one of the biggest benefits of this course is that students are able to work with teachers, alumni, parents, and industry professionals throughout the semester. 

“I’m not an expert on all of these topics,” Ms. Albanese said. “So, I usually bring those experts into the classroom. For example, Mr. Hart teaches the section on civic engagement, Ms. Bishop gives a lesson on media literacy, and Ms. Rieder joins us to talk about nutrition. For a few other topics, I work with alumni, parents, or other professionals in my network and invite them to speak with the students.” 

While at The Hun School, preparing students to thrive in an ever-changing environment is foundational to student success, this life skills class is simply an added bonus. 

“This class gives relevance to students’ everyday lives and their future,” she said. “My goal is to provide them with tangible skills that they can begin implementing immediately into their day-to-day lives.” 

As for the future of this class, Ms. Albanese’s only hope is that she can take her class outside of the classroom. 

“I have a ton of ideas in the works for what we can continue to do with this class,” she said. “But my biggest hope is that we can broaden our classroom. I would love to take some field trips to college campuses, work with a mechanical engineer on some basic car knowledge, or do a cooking demonstration to teach students some easy techniques or recipes. The opportunities are endless because there are just so many different life skills that deserve the spotlight.” 

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