Take a moment and think back to your time in high school. Did you feel empowered to achieve your dreams beyond high school? Were you encouraged to go to college or pursue a specific career path? Did you know that you wanted to be when you grew up? For some of us, our stories entail a journey with many twists and turns but somehow we found our career path. For others, we are still navigating the waters in order to find our way. As adults we know that this process is difficult therefore we can only imagine how it’s overwhelming effects on a teen or young adult.
For over 50 years, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Kansas City has specialized in creating life-changing friendships for children. Traditionally, students participated in the program from eight years of age through high school graduation. In recent years, we’ve revaluated our program and recognized that we want to enhance and expand our programing to support our students beyond high school graduation. Big Brothers Big Sisters understands that mentorship is key in supporting the future success of our youth. A mentor can have a tremendous impact in supporting the post-secondary journey. As a community, we have a responsibility to ensure that our students are life ready which encompasses college and career readiness. Although college may not be the best fit for everyone, students should be encouraged to become college and career ready because it also prepares them for the workforce.
The ACES program was created to support the post-secondary success of our Littles. ACES provides students with Individualized Student Success plans, career and skill development workshops, college resources, access to internships and employment opportunities. In essence, ACES students are empowered to achieve their dreams beyond high school.
ACES is a partnership between Students, Mentors, BBBS, Schools, Businesses, and the Kansas City Community. The program has four components:
- Access and Exposure to Career readiness opportunities
- Collaborative relationships with community partners
- Enhanced and age specific support for each match in the ACES program
- Student-specific individualized success plans
In furthering our commitment to the post-secondary success of our students, we have developed ACES ACCESS. ACES ACCESS supports the first component of the ACES program which provides students with “access and exposure to career readiness opportunities”. This program provides our students with the training and resources to be 21st century workplace competent. January 2017 marks the launch of the pilot year of this program. We are excited to partner with local businesses and the community of Kansas City through ACES ACCESS. To learn more about the program, click here: www.bbbskc.org/acesaccess
As an organization, our vision is that students to be able to successfully obtain internships and viable employment upon post-secondary completion. In today’s growing economy soft skills development is crucial. In less than two years, over 65% of jobs will require some type of post-secondary credential (https://cew.georgetown.edu/). In comparison, 87% of jobs are currently held by individuals with no postsecondary credentialing (http://www.be.wednet.edu/). We want our Littles to thrive not merely survive in life beyond high school. The time is now to engage, educate and empower our youth to passionately pursue their dreams.
As the External Relationships Manager, I’ve had a successful year with the ACES program in being able to oversee the implementation of our career program and the creation of several job opportunities for our students. My passion in working with career development for youth stems from my own unique journey in searching for a work culture that supports my skills set and allows me to thrive and develop personally and professionally. It took some very painful lessons for me to realize my worth and that there was in fact a place for me in the workforce. I can recall feeling easily discouraged and doubting my ability to succeed and have a career because I could not seem to find the right fit. Thankfully, I had mentors that came into my adult life and helped changed my perspective about my worth and my future. In addition to being a BBBSKC employee, I recently became a Big Sister because I know the profound value of mentorship.
I firmly believe that as we overcome obstacles, we have a responsibility to share our stories and encourage others to never give up. I am fortunate to have found my career fit at Big Brothers Big Sisters which is a culture that is student centered and mission driven. Each day, I have the opportunity to support thousands of students that represent a younger version of me. The path beyond high school is unique and success is a personal definition. However, the added benefit of having a mentor and program that provides education, empowerment and support for life beyond high school is life-changing. Every student deserves to have success, and it is our responsibility to help them succeed.