Getting Smart Podcast | GenDIY: Emerging Options for Students Navigating Life

Blog Series, Community, GenDIY, Leadership, Learning, Mission-Driven Work

At the recent 24 Hour Think Challenge, 150 high school juniors from Idaho rallied around the theme of reimagining education. With support from One Stone and The J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Family Foundation, teams of students huddled on a covered hockey rink and were given a crash course in design thinking, then asked to solve a hairy problem in 24 hours.

Underpinning the event was the multilayered issue of education in Idaho. The Gem State is the least equitable for school funding relative to property wealth, and they received a D+ grade in Education Week’s Quality Counts report. This is compounded by the general consensus among students that as soon as you graduate from high school or college you leave Idaho and don’t come back. Talent leaves town.

As part of the empathy phase in the design process, we joined changemakers including Ted Dintersmith, Executive Producer of Most Likely to Succeed, and Jeff Petty (listen our podcast interview) to meet with students to share our experiences and big ideas. We shared our GenDIY project. One thinker who joined our session simplified a common yet poignant realization that many GenDIY students face — “I don’t know what I want to do, and I don’t know how to figure out what’s available.”

High school students need job experiences that are built into their personalized learning plan and by extension, their post high school plans. These experiences should put students in the driver’s seat, and should be immersive and experiential. And, most importantly these experiences should support students in crafting their identity by engaging them in figuring out what what they’re called to do, while educating them on pathway opportunities to get started.

However, for the the vast majority of students, this level of future focused learning isn’t available. Or, it is, but only in isolated moments like a career day a job shadow project.

So, how do students figure out what’s available, when they figure out what the want to pursue? Supports for students still suck. But, there are some emerging options that appear promising.

The College Spark Washington College Readiness Initiative has supported Navigation 101 (now called Career Guidance Washington) and AVID programs throughout the state of Washington. Both AVID and Navigation 101 curriculum contains career guidance. Teachers, counselors and advisors lead students through opportunities to discuss:

  • Who are you? What are your interests and values? How do those align with what you want to do in the future?
  • Where are you headed? This includes your goals, future academic and career interests
  • How are you doing to get there? What are you doing today to set yourself up for the future?

RoadTrip Nation’s new book Roadmap builds on their long running video series and movement that explores ideas and stories of people living lives true to their interests and passions. They urge readers to live in “Beta Version” —  to continually build better versions of yourself by creating and keeping pieces that work well, and realize that life is to be lived as a work in progress, never as a finished masterpiece.

CareerBuilder has online aptitude test dubbed Find Your Calling that brings in more than 90 government and business data sources to help guide students to jobs that they’re not only interested in, but will pay well. It supplies real-time data on job growth projections, salary ranges, businesses hiring, etc.

Seattle-based design and innovation studio, Artefact, envisioned In The Cards, a career discovery concept that is supporting students with a personalized engagement platform.


Jobs For The Future and YouthBuild USA are creators of MyBestBets, an postsecondary platform that aligns a student’s interests with regional employment needs. MyBestBets recently received a Communicators Award in the Education Category.

My Best Bets

For students with an interest in pursuing HigherEd, MajorClarity is a platform that lets students actually try out major and career paths, while simplifying tracking and advising students for schools. was created to help people like you who needs some guidance to make the correct decision in their career life.

Better Make Room is new website developed by Michelle Obama and advisors that includes interactive access, web to mobile communications and advice on post high school planning.

Learning is relational. Students benefit from mentors, particularly those active in their target life goals. College Greenlight is developed specifically for first generation and underrepresented students with the goal of connecting them to “caring colleges,” scholarships, and counselors and mentors. iMentor builds mentoring relationships that empower students from low-income communities to not only graduate from high school, but also develop college aspirations, navigate the college application process and build critical skills that lead to college success.

Amidst these emerging supports, the most effective strategy is for students to have an active, engaged and committed advisor. Someone whose job is to help students plan for life through visioning, goal setting, asking questions, being an advocate, and simply being there for students. Every student deserves at least one adult who gives a shit.

So, what are students to do? Sara Matlock who attended the event in Boise said it best:

“If you have an idea for a project, find people who will work with you and get it done. Pursue your passions. Take charge of your learning and strive to make your education about more than a diploma. Make education about your life and the impact you will be able to make on the world.”

About “GenDIY”
Young people are taking control of their own pathway to careers, college and contribution. Powered by digital learning, “GenDIY” is combatting unemployment and the rising costs of earning a degree by seeking alternative pathways to find or create jobs they love. Follow their stories here and on Twitter at #GenDIY.

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Tyler Nakatsu

Tyler Nakatsu

Tyler Nakatsu is passionate about storytelling. Follow Tyler on Twitter, @post_west.