How to Truly Help Students Achieve College and Career Readiness

This past month, we received news that the graduation rates for high school students in the United States are at an all-time high. With this news comes a renewed interest in higher education and what it means to be “college and career ready.”

Currently, our national conversation is more focused on content and what students need to know to excel both in college and their chosen profession. (College and career readiness standards are, in fact, one of the Obama administration's priorities put forth in the new education bill, Every Student Succeeds Act, that was passed with bipartisan support and signed into law this past December.)

While I agree that content is very important and standards can be very helpful, it is important to remember that college and career readiness is also about reflectionintrospection, and making deeply personal choices. When I think of my own experience teaching high school and leading after school programs in New York City, the students who standout for being the most “college and career ready” are those who had discovered their passion early on in life and had learned that the surest route to success was to do what you love and practice, practice, practice. 

What drives college and career preparation? Passion.

As an educator with close to 10 years of experience, I’ve had the privilege of meeting hundreds of students, most of them teenagers in high school. While it’s true that most teenagers have short attention spans and their likes and dislikes are constantly changing, I am always struck by those who have a strong sense of self and seem to know exactly what they want to be in life. They are inspiring and truly remarkable young people.

Following a recruitment workshop at a high school in Canarsie, Brooklyn, I met one such student. He was 15 years old, aspired to have a career in business, and his family had limited resources. He wanted to know if Global Kids (the after school program I helped run) could help him achieve his goals.  Despite being a freshman in high school, he was very confident, optimistic, and enthusiastic about his future. He joined the Global Kids program and by graduation, he was at the top of his class and set to begin college in the fall.

Throughout high school he worked to become college and career ready. He joined after school programs to connect with students who shared similar interests, he networked with professionals who provided advice and guidance, and he excelled academically because he believed mastery of the content was necessary in his profession. A student with a passion is self-motivated and has all the qualities researchers are finding to be associated with future achievement - a growth mindsetresilience, and grit.

Finding a passion early on in life gives students an opportunity to develop meaningful connections to school and deepen their understanding of the content. It also gives them the opportunity to practice and develop the skills and competence to succeed in college and in their chosen careers.

Helping young people discover their passion

Though the process is very personal and unique to each individual, we can help young people discover a passion by introducing them to truly authentic learning experiences. By developing curriculum that links what students learn in school to future careers in a wide range of industries, we can spark curiosity and expose young people to a world of possibilities.

To create authentic learning experiences we have to draw from the experiences, intellect, and skills of multiple sectors - education, academia, business, government, and non-profits. Together, we can work to make these valuable learning experiences possible. We are reminded by the African proverb that it takes a village to raise a child and this endeavor is no exception. We can all play an important role in helping young people unearth their greatest resource - a passion and love of learning.

Putting it into practice

At CarrotNewYork, I am excited about joining the Education team in developing innovative educational programming that inspires lifelong learning.

For our readers, I’ve listed a few other ways to become involved in helping young people find a passion and become college and career ready:

  • Offer to be a guest speaker on career day
  • Participate in a mentorship program
  • Develop internship opportunities for young people in your community
  • Sponsor a competition, research study, or community service project at a local school

If you’d like to discuss more ways to share professional experience and expertise that inspire future generations, send me an email at cristina.sandoval@carrotnewyork.com.