03 Feb #CrossSectorLearning: Working to Live vs. Living to Work
To kick off 2015, Hope Street Group hosted a Twitter chat using the hashtag#CrossSectorLearning and invited members of our network to participate and share their experiences learning about their future careers. Key to this chat was that we wanted to have a variety of groups represented across the education, health, and workforce spectrum. We were pleased to see great diversity, as participants included teacher leaders from across the country, manufacturing and technology innovators like Allison Grealis of Women in Manufacturing andAllen Blue of LinkedIn, workforce development professionals like Steven Partridge of Charlotte Works, and industry groups like the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation (NRAEF) and the North Carolina Center for the Advancement of Teaching (NCCAT).
Even with the incredible diversity of the voices brought to the table from our network, a number of common themes emerged. One major one was the influence of resources on the direction of our careers. Those located in smaller communities or with greater experience with poverty found they did not have as many venues to turn to when looking for career advice. In many cases, their family or their school played major roles in determining what was possible. But regardless of any disadvantage, what was consistently on display during our chat was that these individuals had that inner drive, passion, and persistence to be the best in whatever career they chose, and that having support and mentorship from others was instrumental in their ability to thrive.
Ultimately, while we tried to hear from everyone, there was one population that was not represented in the chat: those who were still struggling to find career success. I’m referring to the people who work two jobs for minimum wage and can’t afford a break to go online to have a dialogue around workforce issues. And I’m referring to the parents and children in the families who can’t afford a fast Internet connection, or Internet service at all, so they would be incapable of adding their perspective even if they wanted to.
I don’t know if the other participants felt their absence during the chat, but as someone who personally has family members and friends that can identify with these categories, their silence was acute. And ultimately, these are the people who we want our public policy, economic programs, and educational initiatives to help the most.
For all of our programs, Hope Street Group has one focus, and that’s expanding economic opportunity for all Americans. Economic opportunity means your surroundings at birth do not determine how far you will climb in life. #CrossSectorLearning highlighted the necessity, as well as the desire, for all groups in a community to work together to realize that vision. The reality is that many people are blessed to have supportive family and friends, fantastic schools, and plentiful resources. But, unfortunately, many more can’t say the same.
Are we satisfied with a system that leaves those people behind? I don’t know about you, but I certainly am not. If you want to join me in taking meaningful action, please take a moment to check out the resources below. By mentoring youth, you can expose them to greater opportunities and improve their knowledge about potential careers, helping to alleviate the information gap that often exists between more privileged communities and underserved ones:
National Mentoring Partnership
Big Brothers Big Sisters of America
The Y (YMCA) Volunteer Opportunities