Cross post from the Philanthro Seattle homepage. Link here.
“Few people out there really understand how much these kids are lacking, and that’s just talking basic food and shelter. For my students to worry about what they eat or if they will have enough to eat for dinner, anything regarding their future is much more difficult to think about.
Yet having a group of young professionals like those that Philanthro were able to bring in gave them something tangible to reach for. They were able to see other young adults, especially males of minority backgrounds being successful and able to achieve not only a high level of education, but show what it looks and feels like to be successful, gives them the drive to work hard so they can overcome their circumstances.”
- Kelley Mao, 6th Grade teacher and Career Fair Host
We’ve all been asked the question before: What do you want to be when you grow up? And your reply might have been close to something like a doctor, a lawyer, an architect, or even a power ranger. Each one of those were pretty fantastic outcomes and certainly special in their own right. It was a question that granted us the power to imagine anything and believe in anything. But what if you didn’t have the freedom to imagine anything you wished. For some youth in our community, it’s a reality they face right now.
How Philanthro got involved
Fortunately, an old college friend, Kelley, reached out and asked if Philanthro could help out with a special project that is aimed to address this reality. She needed a group of young professionals to visit her school in West Center and speak with 6th graders aged 11 and 12, about what we did to be where we are today. As a twenty-something, I didn’t think I was in a position to share a story that could inspire these kids. But that wasn’t the point. You see, even graduating from college is a significant event and few believe it will be something they will accomplish. Having the opportunity to speak with young adults who have higher education and are working in a profession by choice gives them inspiration to imagine their own dream jobs once again.
There were eight of us with different professional backgrounds. Thanks to the amazing volunteers who helped out, the kids were able to learn about a wide range of professions from sales, marketing, graphic arts, business management, product development, customer service, to finance. The turn out offered a range of insights into different type of responsibilities with each profession, like the paths they would need to go to get there and the fun aspects that they could look forward to if they worked hard at it. The 6th graders were engaged and focused. Every student had questions and you could see in their body language the excitement that followed while talking to us. When we asked the 6th graders what they wanted to be when they grow up, we heard with great enthusiasm, “doctor”, “singer”, “teacher” and so on.
Something seemed to be working.
A worthwhile experience
The whole event was wildly exciting. Walking through the double doors of the school already gave me a heightened sense of anticipation and curiosity. It was a feeling that really brought you back to when you were young and everything was a a first time experience. Everything from the environment to the teams of students running around seemed to have built up a great deal of contagious energy. The feeling was great. It was an opportunity I would wholeheartedly recommend to others.
While the experience was fulfilling, it doesn’t solve the problem. Their homes and the people that surround them are still the same. They still need more positive influences in their life over the course of their childhood. Our visit helped, but it can’t be the last. There is a gap between the availability of successful young adults and the young students who have few, if at all, to look up to. Our teachers, like Kelley, are looking to you for support. If you are interested in working with youth, this is an easy one, and you can have a lasting impact.
Before I end this little story, I wanted to give a big thank you to the teachers, the students, Kelley, and the volunteers for making this possible. Philanthro wants to do this again and we hope that more young professionals will see the value in this type of outreach, especially amongst the younger population. The first few years in school are foundational to their development. We have an opportunity to partner with our community and our schools to help the youth live their dreams.
If you want to get in contact with the school or other Philanthro projects, let me know.