When we started on this journey in 2015, who would have known that the need for our grass-root initiative would be highlighted by the Virginia State Senate and House through the Profile of a Virginia Graduate. The Profile makes it clear that we must do a better job preparing students to be job-ready employees and college-ready students. Simply put, students lacked well-developed workplace skills. Academics alone were no longer enough.
Our First Meeting
On a cold and rainy morning in December 2015, a small group of concerned parents met at Graham Park Middle School in Dumfries, Virginia. With indicators of a growing demand for career ready students all around us, we realized that our school districts could not do it alone. Although the challenge was state-wide, we narrowed our focus to the community that we were currently serving. We began creating a grass-root organization focused on empowering parents to better prepare underrepresented students (to include 1st generation college students) for success in college and the 21st Century workplace.
Implemented an Unconventional Approach
Creating such an organization meant developing a year-round coaching community that would provide support not just to students but one that would empower parents in the career readiness process as well. Additionally, we conducted a need analysis. We determined that there was a tremendous need for middle school students to have access to a proper curriculum that would provide them with ample guidance and sufficient time to develop effective Academic and Career Plans. Because there was no youth development model available that met these parameters, we began developing our own model.
Virginia State Senate and House Paved the Way for a More Effective Career Readiness Process
Little did we realize that by 2016, the Virginia General Assembly would approve House Bill 895 and Senate Bill 336 ushering in the game-changing, state-wide career readiness initiative called Profile of the Virginia Graduate. Every feature that we identified in 2015 as key components to developing an effective parent-led coaching model was included in both of these bills...to include the much-needed training course for middle school students called the 7th Grade Career Investigations Course.
Refined our Youth Career Coaching Road Map
Armed with a strategic vision outlined by the Virginia General Assembly, we conducted pilot programs from SY 2016 to SY 2019 in order to refine and ultimately develop a more relevant and effective youth development model. Today, our 21st Century model is able to support any parent who has students in Virginia's public schools.