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MENTOR National and ASA Panel Discussion Explores Career Readiness Resources for Youth Serving Programs

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MENTOR National and ASA Panel Discussion Explores Career Readiness Resources for Youth Serving Programs

August 12, 2021

During a recent panel discussion webinar which drew more than 200 attendees on July 22, 2021, MENTOR and American Student Assistance® (ASA) shared career readiness resources for initiatives serving young people. The webinar focused on middle school and high school programs engaging in the career readiness space, and detailed free tools and resources organizations can access to support youth in career exploration and from mentor-mentee matches who are using the resources being highlighted.

Panelists included Julie DiPilato, Grants Project Manager, Barnstable Intermediate School; Finn, Student, Junior Achievement of Kentuckiana; Heather Haggerty, Director, Product and Consumer Marketing, American Student Assistance; Ashley Hemmy, Senior Programs & Curriculum Specialist, American Student Assistance; and Debra Hoffer, President, Junior Achievement of Kentuckiana

It was a lively discussion moderated by Charline Alexandre-Joseph, Director of Workforce Development, MENTOR National, that started with a demonstration by Heather Haggerty, Director of Product and Consumer Marketing for ASA, of ASA Futurescape™. The free, personalized mobile-first experience lets students explore thousands of education and career paths on their own terms. Powered by real-time insights, Futurescape is a future exploration tool that learns and grows in sync with young people’s evolving strengths, passions, interests, and goals.

Of note, it was highlighted that mentors and other caring adults play a really powerful role in supporting young people as they explore their futures. (See MENTOR’s guide of tips for adults leveraging Futurescape in conversations with young people.)

What really drove home the power of this highly valuable, informal learning resource was hearing from a student and an educator/business leader who used Futurescape. Finn is a sophomore at Trinity High School in Louisville, Kentucky, and he plays safety on the Trinity varsity football team. He shared how he got the inspiration to study architecture, using Futurescape. He now hopes to study architecture in college! Debra is the president of Junior Achievement, Kentuckiana. Through the JA Inspire curriculum, Kentuckiana delivers entrepreneurship and work readiness and financial literacy support programs to thousands of young people in elementary, middle school and high schools each year.

Debra shared that Futurescape became an important part of their JA Inspire curriculum  and is instrumental in helping prepare young people to explore careers. “Futurescape is a fantastic resource. The mobile-first experience really speaks to young people in a way that I think they enjoy. And it makes them want to pursue more and more in the depth of the resource, because there’s so much versus some of the older, more unexciting career interest inventories that are available,” Debra commented.

Interestingly, we pivoted seamlessly to talking about how to help middle school educators embed career exploration experiences in the classroom. Ashley Hemmy, Senior Program and Curriculum Specialist at American Student Assistance, develops, implements and expands on pilot programming and products for school districts in Massachusetts and nationally. Julie DiPilato works with sixth and seventh graders for Barnstable Intermediate School in Massachusetts.

Ashley shared that ASA had developed a portfolio of resources to support educators and programming staff in both school and community-based settings. These include ASA’s digital middle school career exploration curriculum, a 10-lesson curriculum that focuses on helping students or youth explore their interests and future options; the newly launched AMLE/ASA “Career Exploration in the Middle Grades: A Playbook for Educators,” a playbook that equips educators with a roadmap for creating effective career exploration programming; and the inaugural ASA/AMLE national ‘Solve Together’ Challenges for middle school students. The competition enables middle school classrooms to tackle real-world problems on a digital platform and leverages student agency by encouraging kids to explore issues they care about and providing lots of opportunities for student choice.

Based on her experience at Barnstable Intermediate School, Julie shared why career readiness is such an important component to the general curriculum. Located on Cape Cod in southeastern Massachusetts, the urban public school has about 700 students, and it’s very racially and economically diverse. Two and a half years ago, the school began a journey of a whole school redesign with two goals in mind. The school wanted to bring rigorous, relevant and engaged learning to all of its students and bring relationships within all of the stakeholder groups, including students, educators, families, and the larger Barnstable community, into the spotlight. As part of the redesign, the career exploratory experience was a strong component to help bring in that relevant and engaged learning and develop those relationships. “For career exploration classes and lessons, teachers are reaching out and starting to build lessons around real life problems that our committee members are bringing to them,” said Julie. The school’s redesign is detailed in “CASE STUDY: A Whole-School Redesign with Students at the Center Barnstable Intermediate School, Hyannis, Massachusetts,” one of several case studies featured in the aforementioned AMLE/ASA Career Exploration Playbook.

We hope you found this useful. You can watch the webinar recording here. Please share your thoughts.

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