DExecuting the Plan
Selecting And Securing Junior Achievement Program Materials
The Path Finders’ program curriculum is based on JA It’s My Future, a middle school workforce readiness curriculum designed and copyrighted by Junior Achievement USA (JA).This is the leading curriculum selected for this blueprint because it is focused on the middle school population, is evidence-based and tested with support from local JA chapters. (A list of additional evidence-based program curricula is included in the Resources section of this blueprint.)
JA is a nonprofit dedicated to giving young people the knowledge and skills they need to own their economic success, plan for their future, and make smart academic and economic choices. JA has 115 offices throughout the country. There is a nominal cost to use the JA It’s My Future curriculum to help offset the cost for local JA staff to provide training and support to partners, volunteers, and participants. Contact your local Junior Achievement chapter to learn more: https://www.juniorachievement.org/web/ja-usa/home. The task force should identify a funding source to pay for the cost of implementation.
The task force can ask all employers that join the effort to contribute a modest amount, apply for funding from a local foundation or philanthropist, or conduct a crowdfunding campaign.
Creating A Task Force
While the mayor’s office can lead a Path Finder’s initiative without a task force, having a group specifically devoted to this initiative may make it easier to coordinate the process of engaging stakeholders and securing resources for the program. The task force can be a stand-alone planning committee or can be part of an existing group focused on a similar population, intervention, or focus area. The task force can be any size, but if it is its own entity or very large, a subgroup with expertise in youth programming should lead the program design.
The mayor’s office should identify a diverse set of stakeholders to serve on the task force to plan for the initiative alongside the mayor’s office and the local JA chapter. Task force members should include representatives from local for-profit and nonprofitorganizations, government agencies, the school district, civic groups (such as the Chamber of Commerce or Rotary Club), hospitals, higher education institutions, organizations serving youth that may be program host candidates (i.e. schools, afterschool programs/providers, youth recreation centers, youth clubs), and parent/caregiver organizations.
Additionally, at least two youth, selected from among youth connected to youth-serving organizations, should also be included on the task force. Alternatively, if the mayor has a youth council or cabinet, those members could provide input to the task force. School or career readiness staff from a local college may also serve as a valuable resource.
Task force staffing and program coordination should be provided directly by the mayor’s office or national service member secured by the city or through a nonprofit partner. The program coordinator should hold quarterly coordination meetings with lead partners and keep the task force and any funders informed of the program’s progress on an ongoing basis.
Identifying The Youth Receive Career Coaching
The mayor’s office or task force should conduct a community assessment to identify areas where similar programs may already be operating. Identifying neighborhoods for possible program expansion or communities in need of such programs will help determine the groups of youth to participate in Path Finders. Due to the likelihood that they have fewer career resources available to them, youth from low-income families should be targeted for this program.
It will be easier to execute a program if the youth are of similar ages to one another and already meet regularly through a youth-serving organization. For example, the youth may already be regularly participating in an afterschool program, a recreation center, or a middle school class or club. Leaders of these programs should be members of the task force and closely involved in planning for implementation. Planners should try to bring the program to as many youth as possible, potentially all youth or all low-income youth in a selected community.
Depending on the scale of the program, required resources may include staff support, national service stipends, stipends for trainers, printing, funding for background checks, and refreshments for trainings and recognition events. Path Finders can be attractive to donors interested in supporting youth education and career readiness. Partnerships with public and private organizations with local, state, and national reach can be valuable to building this program. Foundation and governmental grants, private funder support and program promotion, sponsors and fundraising events provide community support. Businesses can provide in-kind donations of necessary materials through sponsorship or partnership.
The elements of a funder proposal could include:
- Description of the Path Finders program
- Information on how Path Finders will positively impact the community
- Amount of funding requested, proposed breakdown of grant(s) and how those funds will be used (e.g., paying for supplies, providing a stipend to the trainers)
- Metrics that will be collected to assess progress
- Information on Cities of Service (this is especially helpful for national funders) (http://www.citiesofservice.org)
- Description of how the donor will be recognized (e.g., logo on printed materials, branding on city’s service website, verbal acknowledgement in training sessions)
The mayor’s office can work with its partners to recognize donors and provide follow-up information on the initiative’s implementation and impact.
Once the program has been selected and curriculum secured, employer partners may be sought. Large employers in the community should be tapped, as should diverse smaller employers, nonprofits, and local government agencies. Ideally, the final mix of employer partners should reflect a diversity of fields and career training needs. Participating employers may provide speakers, offer workplace tours or job shadowing opportunities, be part of a career fair, and/or provide volunteer facilitators or career coaches to deliver the selected program.
In addition to employers, faith-based organizations, senior service programs, parents or guardians of enrolled children, higher education institutions, and community groups may be sources of volunteers to serve as career coaches or facilitators. Career Facilitators guide students through the weekly group discussions and activities based on the JA It’s My Future curriculum. Career coaches are local professionals who volunteer their time by speaking to students about their careers and potentially volunteer a tour at their workplace for the students. Federal Work Study students or students enrolled in service-learning programs in local colleges may be able to volunteer as well.
Volunteers should be screened through a background check prior to contact with students. Once volunteers have been recruited, they must be trained on their roles and responsibilities as either a facilitator or career coach. Program coordinators should encourage clear and concise communication and document all volunteer hours in a timely and accurate manner.
Implementing And Improving The Program
Prior to the start of the first session, program coordinators or volunteer facilitators should administer a pre-program survey to the youth so that it will be possible to determine if the program has an impact on their knowledge, plans, and attitudes.
Regular check-ins with volunteers about the programmatic successes and challenges allow for a continuous feedback system and help volunteers stay connected, so the program can adjust or expand effectively. There are many ways to do this, including pre- and post-program meetings, newsletters, emails, phone check-ins, and tokens of appreciation.
After the completion of the program, the task force should survey stakeholders, hold focus groups, or interview youth, parents, volunteers, and all participating organizations to identify areas of success and areas for improvement. As necessary, the task force can make any needed adjustments before conducting the program with a new cohort of youth.
Recognizing And Thanking Volunteers
Volunteer recognition is an effective recruitment and retention tool – retaining volunteers is more cost-effective than recruiting and training new ones. Recognition not only motivates volunteers, but also promotes public awareness in local communities and builds a sense of community within and amongst the coaches. To recognize volunteers, program coordinators should honor them in a way that will resonate with the target community. The task force can help determine the forms of recognition that will be most meaningful for the particular group(s) in question. Some methods to consider are:
- Thanks and recognition from the mayor at a community event that includes students and families
- Personal thank you notes from the mayor with statistics on the impact to-date of the program • End of session celebrations
- Thank you note to volunteers in a newsletter
- Tickets to city-run venues or events
- Discounts at local retail businesses provided by program sponsors
The mayor’s office may also want to recognize the volunteer trainers, as many likely invest a great deal of personal effort into the initiative. In general, the more this recognition can create cachet around being part of the Path Finders career coach community, the better it will be for volunteer recruitment and retention efforts.
Recognizing The Youth
The mayor’s office may want to recognize youth who have successfully completed the program by providing a certificate, inviting youth to tour city hall, participating in end-of-program celebrations, providing recognition in a newsletter, donating tickets for city-run venues or events, or distributing items donated by local businesses. Families may also be included in recognition events.