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Vote for ASA’s PanelPicker Sessions

August 8-20, 2023

American Student Assistance® (ASA) is a national nonprofit changing the way kids learn about careers and navigate a path to postsecondary education and career success. As part of our continuing efforts to elevate the critical conversations and issues relevant to preparing youth for success after high school, we have submitted – via the PanelPicker – several highly engaging and informative speaking proposals for consideration at the 2024 SXSW EDU Conference (March 4-7 in Austin, TX). To get our panel sessions accepted, ASA needs you to vote! 

To participate in the voting process from August 8-20, visit and sign in or create an account. If you are not familiar, the PanelPicker is the official, user-generated platform that enables the community to propose session ideas for the SXSW EDU program and allows the community to browse the ideas and vote for their favorite proposals. The final decision is derived from Advisory Board evaluations (40%), staff review (30%) and public voting (30%). 

Between August 8-20, please vote for our sessions detailed below and reach out to others in your network to do the same. Each voter can vote once per proposal – selecting “arrow up” for yes. 

Universal Signals of Quality for HS Real-world Learning


High School academic transcripts and LERs don’t give employers and admission officers the full picture of who students are and what they know. If learning happens everywhere, how can we make sure students get credit for that learning? Durable skills and real-world experiences are rarely communicated well in applications and through resumes. Is there a better way? These panelists say yes, but it will take a village of educators, business leaders, and policy makers–to create a nationally recognized system for signaling quality and acquisition of skills that were once indicated only by a degree. 

  • Tom VanderArk, CEO, Getting Smart, Moderator
  • Byron Sanders, CEO, Big Thought
  • Mike Flannagan, CEO, Mastery Transcripts 
  • Tim Taylor, President and CEO, America Succeeds 

Blended High Schools are Increasing Student Confidence 


In a recent study, less than half of Gen Z said they had enough information to decide what post-high school pathway was best for them. One effective way to address this challenge is to create student choice and broaden access to intentional pathways in high schools, including early college/dual enrollment, work-based & hands-on learning (internships, employer-led challenges, project-based learning) and career education. During this panel discussion, hear from experts on the benefits of blended high school pathways and how they prepare young people to make confident decisions after high school.

  • Shawnee Caruthers, Director of Advocacy, Getting Smart, Moderator
  • Jason A. Tyszko, Senior Vice President, U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation
  • Corey Mohn, President and CEO, CAPS Network 
  • Sylvia Symonds, Ph.D., Senior Program Officer, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation 

Expanding Youth Self-Identity Via Work Based Learning 


Work-based learning increases engagement and puts young people on a path to career success. But, in order for these experiences to resonate and help them create workplace identities, they need to feel understood, acknowledged, and accepted by adults. With increasingly multicultural, multiracial, and multilingual identities, employers and other adults need to create spaces where youth get the opportunity to know themselves, develop their business identities, and have their voices heard. Panelists will provide examples of how they interact with youth to create a safe and nurturing space at work.

  • Jing Cox-Orrell, Philanthropy Program Manager American Student Assistance (ASA), Moderator
  • Letta Neely, Executive Director, Apprentice Learning
  • Sharif El-Mekki, Founder and CEO, Center for Black Educator Development 
  • Maggie Antonelli, Director of Curriculum and Assessments, nXu

Creating Student Agency in Your Career Exploration Classroom


Join this hands-on session and learn how to put the free Career Exploration in the Middle Grades: A Workbook for Students to work for you. This workshop will be packed with activities to help students know themselves, know their education and career options, make informed decisions, and turn their passions into actions. We’ll share two lessons, review facilitation techniques, and provide discussion questions that will help your students expand their understanding of self-identity, explore their values and career pathways, and make informed decisions about their futures.

  • Jing Cox-Orrell, Philanthropy Program Manager American Student Assistance (ASA), Facilitator
  • Jay Galbraith, Director of Academics, Innovation and Instructional Technology at KIPP Massachusetts  
  • Vanessa Haerle, STEM Teacher, Sutton Middle School  

Harnessing Technology to Prepare Youth for Long Term Success


Today’s kids don’t feel prepared to make informed decisions about their futures. Enter technology innovations that are transforming the way kids connect classroom learning with real-world experiences. Learn how middle & high schoolers are benefitting from impactful tech-enabled career learning opportunities–from virtual career mentors that enable them to build social capital/professional networks, mobile-first experiences that help match interests with career possibilities, to virtual reality & immersive career exploration experiences, technology-enabled internships, and AI career coaching. 

  • Julia Freeland Fisher, Director of Education Research at the Clayton Christensen Institute, Moderator 
  • Sam Hyams, Founder & CEO, SpringPod 
  • Jared Chung, Founder and Executive Director, Career Village 
  • Michael J. Carter, Founder, President & CEO, UStrive 

Fostering Systematic Support for Teen Real-World Learning 


ASA research shows 79% of high school students are interested in internships, but only 2% have completed one. Why? Systemic barriers to expansion of work-based learning for teens makes access to opportunity a challenge. This panel will examine why expansion must be a policy priority and how successful models of school and employer collaboration–job-shadowing, project-based learning, apprenticeship or internships–are changing the way kids learn about careers, helping them test and try what they might like (as well as what they don’t), meet career professionals, and build a workplace identity.

  • Julie Lammers, SVP,  Advocacy and Corporate Social Responsibility, American Student Assistance (ASA), Moderator
  • Stephanie Reisner, President & CEO, GPS Education Partners
  • Ajit Vakharia, President and CEO, Flare Education 
  • Luke Rhine, Chief of Staff, Office of Career, Technical and Adult Education at U.S. Department of Education  

Engaging Gen Z in Socially-Conscious Entrepreneurship 

According to an Axios/Momentive poll, 54% of Gen Z has a negative view of capitalism. Meanwhile, ASA research has found that a similar amount—over half—have entrepreneurial ambitions, and 59% want a career that helps others. This panel discussion will focus on how we can help Gen Z fulfill their entrepreneurial aspirations while adhering to their values and aiding the social causes they care about the most.


  • J.D. LaRock, CEO, NFTE, Moderator
  • Daquan Oliver, CEO, WeThrive  
  • Bill Taylor, CEO, BUILD  

Who Says I’m Good at SEL, Durable and Leadership Skills?


According to recent ASA research, less than half of teens feel confident that they are good at the 18 SEL, durable and leadership skills needed to thrive in the workplace. Meanwhile, only 76% say they are actively working on improving four or more skills. So, how can we help? Get the topline findings of ASA’s research on teen’s perceptions of skills and see demos of ASA’s free suite of digital experiences, including Futurescape, Next Voice, and EvolveMe, that meet 12 million kids where they are (on their smartphones and tablets) and changing the way kids learn about careers.

  • Kaylee Johnson, Manager, Research, American Student Assistance (ASA)
  • Lily Hanlon, Senior Product Manager, American Student Assistance (ASA)  

Gaming for Growth: Revolutionizing Future-Readiness for Teens


According to YPulse research, 95% of Gen Z regularly play games on their devices. According to ASA research, the majority of high school students/recent graduates say they would have benefited from more career-focused learning in secondary school. There’s a prime opportunity to combine career-readiness education with gamified digital learning (co-designed with teens) to foster self-directed learning and illuminate a wide range of possibilities for the future. Join us for a discussion featuring emerging voices in youth-centric digital gaming!

  • Mike Murphy, Manager, Strategic Communications & Social Media, American Student Assistance (ASA), Moderator
  • Lindsey Tropf, Founder & CEO, Immersed Games 
  • Kerwin Rent, CEO of EliteGamingLIVE 
  • Lily Hanlon, Senior Product Manager, American Student Assistance (ASA)  

Non-degree Paths: Confidence, Employability & Fiscal Freedom


ASA & JFF’s new groundbreaking research says that young people who pursue non-degree pathways have greater confidence in their future, fare better in the labor market than non-pathway youth, experience less unemployment, are better prepared for work, and have a high degree of satisfaction with their chosen pathway.  Learn how non-degree pathways benefit real people and are poised to serve the workforce. Understand what barriers still stand in the way of widespread acceptance. Hear top line findings with an introduction by Julie Lammers, SVP Advocacy & Corporate Social Responsibility, ASA.

  • Joel Vargas, Vice President of the Education Practice, JFF, Presenter
  • Julie Lammers, Advocacy & Corporate Social Responsibility, ASA Introductions

What Parents & K12 Educators Think About Non-degree Pathways


Join ASA and JFF for a debut of two new research studies that uncover the perceptions of parents and educators on how prepared kids are for their post-high school education and career transition. For parents, learn how they feel if their kids don’t pursue a 2-year/4-year college after high school. For educators and counselors, understand how prepared they feel in offering advice on non-degree pathways to high school students. Introduction by Julie Lammers, SVP Advocacy and Corporate Social Responsibility, ASA, and Joel Vargas, Vice President of the Education Practice, JFF.

  • Rahul Choudaha, Ph.D., Managing Director, Morning Consult, Presenter

MS Career Readiness: Which States Are Getting it Right?


Middle school is an ideal time for students to be engaged in activities that help them determine their aptitudes and interests, explore potential careers, and understand how educational paths can prepare them for their future career goals. Yet students entering high school are less prepared than prior cohorts. To learn why, ASA commissioned a 50-state analysis of how states are handling middle school career exploration–including best practices, innovations, solutions to common barriers–and how these programs are practically executed in schools.

  • Julie Lammers, SVP Advocacy and Corporate Social Responsibility, American Student Assistance (ASA), Moderator
  • Casey Wrenn, Director of Career Readiness, Education Strategy Group 
  • Mark Baxter, Senior Program Director, Rodel 
  • Jay Galbraith, Director of Academics, Innovation and Instructional Technology at KIPP Massachusetts  

Reimagining Career Education to Prepare Kids for Success


Millions of kids leave high school with no plan & enter a life of self-doubt simply because they didn’t take a degree path. The false dichotomy of “college or no college” is one of the most damaging and indelible stories presented to children. Hear from authors of 2 new books–”Crisis-Proofing Today’s Learners: Reimagining Career Education to Prepare Kids for Tomorrow’s World” and “Leaving to Learn: How Out-of-School Learning Increases Student Engagement and Reduces Dropout Rates”–on blueprints that prepare kids for the future via access to learning experiences inside and outside the classroom.

  • Andrew Frishman, Co-Executive Director, Big Picture Learning, Moderator
  • Elliot Washor, Co-Founder, Big Picture Learning 
  • Jean Eddy, President and CEO, American Student Assistance (ASA)