By: Tamara Orozco
The energy in the room was buzzing as high school students shook hands and talked with volunteer career coaches at United Way Bay Area’s annual career exploration event, OnTrack. Held at LinkedIn and in partnership with San Francisco Unified School District, the event gathered 90 local high school students and 50 volunteers from diverse Bay Area companies.
“Many of the youth are coming from areas of concentrated disadvantage,” says Larry Barry, Director of K12 Programs at United Way Bay Area. Along with economic barriers, some youth are experiencing learning disabilities, he says. Studies show that by their second semester of freshman year, more than 50 percent of African American and other high school students of color are off track to graduate on time. OnTrack was created to intervene early on in a student’s education, connecting them with resources to help them succeed.
“They opened my eyes to new things that I thought were boring in the first place, but it made it seem that it wasn’t that bad,” said Khanif Moon, an OnTrack student attendee.
Jordan Nickelson-Smith, another student attendee, enjoyed the interactive aspects of OnTrack and its authenticity. “I see, I touch, I know. It’s not like we’re sitting down reading. That’s boring; you’re gonna go to sleep. This is something we feel, this is actually really meant for us.”
OnTrack also provides company employees from Starbucks, San Francisco International Airport, and Bank of America among others the opportunity to give back to their community. Volunteer career coaches got the chance to connect one-on-one with students, sharing information about their education and career fields, internship opportunities and ways to succeed in any field. Volunteer career coach, Tiana Bragg says, “A lot of times students don’t feel comfortable reaching out to their teachers or even at home. I think having that ability to have those one-on-one conversations is a way of providing that individual attention that’s outside of a classroom of thirty.”
To learn more about OnTrack, watch the video above. To view photos, click here.