Over the past three years, career awareness programming has been a top priority for CIS of Chicago school partners, particularly our elementary schools. And for good reason. Research shows that exposing young people to a wide range of careers improves how they do academically, informs their critical thinking and goal setting skills, and motivates them to continue their studies. While traditional Career Days often take place in the springtime, many schools try to go further and schedule an array of programming throughout the year to reinforce career exploration.
To help schools continue to provide year-round career education, even in remote learning, the CIS of Chicago Partnership Team created an online Career Day library where teachers could access career content on demand.
First, CIS of Chicago’s College and Career Partnership Specialist Rishona Taylor reached out to community organizations and local professionals and asked them to create short videos about their career journeys. The call for content was spread far and wide to make sure that a diverse range of career types were represented in the videos. This included outreach to professionals in non-traditional careers, like technology and entrepreneurship.
Once Rishona garnered interest, she asked participants to answer questions about who they were, what they did for a living, what students needed to learn to pursue a career in their field, and what they loved about their work. Then she compiled the video recordings on CIS of Chicago’s YouTube channel, allowing the CIS team to share content with schools as requested. So far, Career Day video participants include professionals from the Caron Treatment Center, Fit Kids, the Cook County Sheriff’s Office, and Steppenwolf Theater.
“We know that schools rely on community partners to enhance and enrich their students’ educational experiences through direct programs,” said Rishona Taylor. “By participating as a Career Day speaker, community partners are able to multiply their impact on students’ lives by opening their eyes to the potential that lies within how they do what they do and why. Having a guest speaker for Career Day is always a treat for students and provides a fresh voice on the importance of preparing early for your career.”
Some organizations prefer connecting with students directly, so CIS of Chicago also offered a live-virtual option for partners, including new partner YouTube Originals. Associate Director of Community Partnerships Karen Roddie connected the Pro Football Hall of Fame with schools seeking a live-virtual program around careers in the NFL. This program underscores the importance of education for students and explores the hundreds of careers that are available in and around the National Football League — beyond playing quarterback or defensive end.
Karen also identified the Pulitzer Center as a partner who could provide career-focused programs. Working with CIS of Chicago School Partnership Specialists, Karen connected this program with schools interested in virtual visits with journalists, much to the delight of our Pulitzer Center contact.
“I’ve had some conversations with teachers at Henry Clay School, Courtenay Language Arts Center, and Haines Elementary about photojournalists visiting their classrooms,” said Sushmita Mukherjee, the Pulitzer Center’s K-12 Education Coordinator for Chicago. “I’m really excited by these conversations and want to thank (CIS of Chicago) so much for sharing our virtual visit program. I feel connected to a community, have gotten way more interest in virtual visits, and have connected with schools that I have never worked with.”
In addition to career awareness being important for school partners, college and career planning is also a priority of the district. As Chicago Public Schools states on its website, “It’s never too early — or too late — for students to think about what they want to do after high school. It takes time to research options and prepare for the future.” CIS of Chicago is helping students and Chicago Public Schools in that long-term planning process.
Students at every grade level can begin to explore their interests and skills, and our CIS of Chicago Partnership Team is working to get these resources directly to the classroom. Pre-recorded videos in our online Career Day library and live-virtual programming from community partners provide students with valuable information on career options. They also encourage students to begin planning for their next steps after graduating from high school.