Wayfinders: Lighting the Pathways Ahead

Artwork: LaDasia Bryant

With increased vaccine access for young people, the end of the pandemic may be in sight — but ongoing horrific events of violence against Black people and other groups add more weight and trauma to the pressures young people were already feeling during these turbulent times. We at Equitable Futures believe that our vision of building more equitable pathways for young people cannot possibly come true unless many more of us work to actively dismantle and re-shape the structures and systems that prevent many young people from achieving their goals. Thankfully, leaders and practitioners are thinking creatively about how to build space for young people to continue forward on their journeys towards their future careers. Educational systems and institutions are implementing new approaches, like waiving admission fees, and re-thinking scholarship and dual-enrollment options. Organizations that work across educational and career spaces are building and sharing resources — some of which are featured in this issue of Wayfinders — through which we can hear from young people on how they see themselves and their futures and understand how to open doors for more young people to succeed. Even during these moments when stories of violence, fear, and anger appear to be ascendant in the news, young people and the adults who support them are somehow managing to find ways to light the pathways for all of us. 

In this month’s Wayfinders:

Possible Dreams, Possible Paths

The last year has been unlike anything any other generation has gone through — and for high school students, it’s happening right as they’re trying to make big decisions about their futures. How can we help them explore and find the best path toward their goals in this moment of change?

Possible Dreams, Possible Paths is a new student-centered site by Roadtrip Nation where high school students can hear about their peers’ college and career journeys and share their own for others to learn from. In this space, young people can review video playlists on topics like mental health, plans beyond high school, social issues, family and responsibilities — and start exploring a path of their own. For individuals and organizations who support young people along their education and career journeys, the site includes resources covering everything from supporting first-generation college students, to nurturing virtual connections in the classroom. It offers a valuable line of sight into how young people are thinking and feeling right now — including the opportunities they see and the pressures they feel on issues of identity and activism. 

We know the pandemic did not affect everyone equally. We have an opportunity — and an obligation — to let young people know that they’re not alone in this moment, and that there are people and resources available to help them continue building the future they dream of. Start exploring Possible Dreams, Possible Paths here.

Pathways to Prosperity

Creating equitable pathways will require intentional design and collaboration across different educational and employment sectors. However, with limited resources and an immediate focus on student and school pandemic relief, school districts need to partner with others to address both immediate and longer-term goals. In a time when many are doing more with less, intermediary organizations have a critical role in ensuring that equitable access to support and opportunities is a top priority.

JFF (Jobs for the Future) recently launched a resource hub to support pathways leaders — intermediaries in particular — in building systems that create a more equitable future for all young people. Through the hub, you can access helpful guides to support your efforts, like how to work with higher education partners and formalizing partnerships with an MOU, as well as how to apply labor market information and the latest best practices to your work. JFF’s recent five-part webinar series exploring the challenges and opportunities in reimagining how we prepare youth for careers in today’s world is a great place to start.

By bringing together leaders in the field to share learnings and strengthen planning and implementation efforts, intermediaries can help build and maintain a long-term, systems-based vision on repairing the conditions that have enabled unequal access to support and opportunities for many young people for far too long. You can access the full resource hub here.

How Policy Shapes Pathways

The pathway to success for young people can take many routes. Some seamlessly transition from K-12 to postsecondary to employment, some use on-ramps and off-ramps to complete their journey, and others need more targeted or specialized support along the way. To ensure all young people are prepared for the reality of today’s evolving job market, we need integrated, high-quality pathways to meet young people where they are en route.

Pathways Matter, a new microsite from ExcelInEd, showcases the power of state policy in supporting education to workforce pathways. In many states, only one or two areas of the education-to-workforce continuum are addressed by policy-makers each year. To make good decisions about policies and resource allocation, policy-makers need to start with the full picture of how young people make their way through education and employment systems so they can then focus on what policies will help more young people have the opportunity to achieve their goals. 

To learn more about how policy has the power to shape learner pathways and follow example journeys, visit the Pathways Matter microsite here.

What We’re Reading

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