When I was a child, I didn’t have a clue that I could be doing the work that I am doing today. I couldn’t conceptualize it. So, instead my passions were rooted in what was familiar to me. I wanted to be an artist. So, after high school I went on to pursue a fine arts degree. It wasn’t until the end of college that I discovered that I didn’t need to be an artist to work with art and I realized another passion I had – being a part of positive change in my community.
Figuring out what you want to be when you grow up isn’t as simple as it seems. It’s a journey that is built through exposure to a variety of things, parsing through those things and deciding what feeds your passion. However, exposure to different careers and experiences is not a privilege every student has.
Through programming offered by Flint & Genesee Education & Talent, a division of Flint & Genesee Group, students can take advantage of these kinds of exposure opportunities. The division aims to ensure the students we serve have the chance to broaden their experiences outside of their home and community.
This past summer, the Flint Public Health Youth Academy (FYHYA) held a cohort with YouthQuest students to teach students about the field of public health and how pursuing a career in that field can directly benefit their community. Students were also exposed to public policy, advocacy and grant writing, all of which could translate to several future career pathways.
Also this summer, 50 preteens visited Genesee Career Institute (GCI) as part of YouthQuest’s Summer on the Road program. During the week they were there, students were able to try on a variety of careers including construction, robotics and screen printing.
Through this program, students not only had the chance to learn about these various careers, they were also introduced to GCI, a career-technical education center serving 11th– and 12th-grade students in Genesee County. The institute offers a variety of programs including manufacturing, health sciences and information technology.
For older students, our Summer Youth Initiative (SYI) program is a way for students to learn about new careers. For example, one of our TeenQuest graduates, BreyAn Witt, changed her career trajectory from the medical field to wildlife biology. Her inspiration for the change was due in-part to working at For-Mar Nature Preserve & Arboretum through SYI.
Career exploration is almost more important than learning hard skills. If I had been exposed to different experiences when I was young, who knows how my education and career path could have changed. When students know what’s available to them and the opportunities that are in our area, they are better equipped to make choices that will help them grow into successful adults.
Read more about the education and talent landscape in Flint & Genesee in the September digital issue of AND Magazine. Subscribe by visiting flintandgenesee.org.
Kristina Johnston is the Chief Operating Officer of the Flint & Genesee Group