BridgeYear’s social justice goals focus largely on economic mobility and summer melt. Both issues have numerous implications, which BridgeYear is steadily trying to address.
Economic mobility can be achieved through various methods, one of which is getting a degree from a traditional four-year college. This is one of the most common and widely accepted routes; however, there are students unable to afford this path, while some may not be as interested in higher studies. BridgeYear aims to introduce students to other options, such as community college, vocational training programs, and employment opportunities. They do this by organizing Career Test Drives (CTDs), in which students are exposed to options and information, while being able to experience different careers first-hand.
Summer melt, when eligible graduates who intend on attending college do not end up going, occurs with a large number of students. This is due to a lack of support and direction after, or even during, high school. This results in a vicious cycle, as they are unable to move up and work in higher-paid jobs. BridgeYear tries to alleviate this by providing near-peer advising to students. This allows students to discuss their future plans while they receive actionable steps on the ways to get there, reminders for due dates, tips, strategies, encouragement, and a resource for questions. This, paired with CTDs, creates a tangible path students are motivated to work towards.
Progress for these issues will arise in a variety of ways from a student being more invested and confident in their abilities, to a student entering a high growth career path. Since BridgeYear was only founded two years ago, it is difficult to see the full effect of the program on students, but metrics that indicate success would be increased numbers of students enrolling into community colleges or seeking help to enter a high growth job. In some years, hopefully, we will see progress in terms of the high growth employment gap closing, and steady economic mobility.
These are challenging, long-term goals, which is why the smaller steps building to them are crucial. This includes exposing students to information and the variety of options available, supporting and encouraging them to be ambitious, and giving equal attention to all students. As interns, we are able to contribute by operating CTDs and being advisors. I am able to learn so much simply by having a casual conversation with a student about what they want to do when they graduate, or the barriers they come across.
We are also able to contribute towards the organization and mission through our individual projects, of which mine focuses on communications. This does not intuitively seem directly linked to the cause, but helps in terms of educating and getting people invested in the issues, building awareness and support of the brand, and possibly leading donors to support the organization, or issue, in other ways.