Guest presenters:

  • Nate Cadena, Chief Operating Officer, Denver Scholarship Foundation
  • Michaela Leslie-Rule, Senior Strategist, Wonder: Strategies for Good
  • Emily Lockwood, Senior Program Officer, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
  • Roz Pierson, Founder and Principal, Luminas LLC
  • Amy Simon, Founding Partner, Goodwin Simon Strategic Research

FCAN hostKimberly Lent, Assistant Director for Research and Policy

In June, Equitable Futures, a project of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, released a report to understand what success looks like to young Black and Hispanic people and those who are from households with lower incomes, what resources they need to access educational and employment opportunities, and the barriers that stand in their way.

During a Sept. 30 FCAN webinar, Equitable Futures and their project partners offered an overview of the “Striving to Thriving” report and shared how to use their breakthrough research findings to improve the experiences of Black, Hispanic, and lower-income students in Florida.

‘Striving to Thriving’ Project Origin

In partnership with Goodwin Simon Strategic Research, Equitable Futures engaged in a 16-month research project with over 4,000 youth nationwide to understand the impact of young people’s own mindsets on the formation of their occupational identity, work, and life goals. Emily Lockwood, senior program officer for The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, said the research was guided by early Equitable Futures convenings.

“One of the themes that emerged was really trying to deeply understand how young people are making decisions about their careers and the path they want to pursue,” Lockwood said. “What is forming their sense of identity?”

To inform the field and affect change, Wonder: Strategies for Good is now partnering with the Foundation to disseminate and translate the research findings, co-create and test a set of research informed tools and build the field’s capacity to activate this research within their specific area of work.

Through their two-phased research project — including interviews, focus groups, and surveys with Hispanic, Black, and white students and adults — the team identified eight key insights. The webinar spotlighted two of these insights.

Young People Envision Pathways to Thriving

Overall, the young adults in this project were optimistic about their futures.

“When asked to share how they imagined their lives at ages 25 and 45, many described imagining that they would feel fulfilled with their choices,” said Amy Simon, founding partner at Goodwin Simon Strategic Research. “They imagined they will have enough money, resources, and power to take care of themselves, their parents, and their families.”

However, the level of confidence among young adults varies on whether they can identify and achieve their work and life goals. Crucially, many of the young people in this project believed they were their own biggest barrier to achieving their goals.

Michaela Leslie-Rule, senior strategist at Wonder: Strategies for Good, used participant quotes to provide a deeper look into the five categories of Occupational Pathways that best described their feelings about their future careers:

  1. Know what they want to do, and know how to get there.
  2. Not sure what they want to do, yet have a good idea of the steps to take to explore in order to get there.
  3. Know what they want to do, but are unsure how to get there.
  4. Not sure what they want to do, and unsure of what steps to take.
  5. Know what they want to do, think they know how to get there, but their imagined pathway is inaccurate and/or unrealistic.

Young People Experience Identity as an Asset

The research also revealed that young people believe their racial, ethnic, and cultural identities will be assets as they pursue their career goals and a good life. Still, Leslie-Rule revealed that youth still need support in capitalizing on those innate strengths.

“While many young people, especially those from lower-income households, describe themselves in mostly positive terms, they struggle to connect positive self-descriptions to notions of strength,” Leslie-Rule said. Additionally, many participants think they will encounter discrimination over their life and career pathways, but also believe they can overcome it by being and doing better. “They believe the burden of overcoming racial and gender bias rests on their shoulders.”

The webinar also featured insight from Equitable Futures advisory team members Nate Cadena — chief operating officer for the Denver Scholarship Foundation — and Roz Pierson — founder and principal at Luminas LLC — about their experience guiding the research project and activation.

“Folks come from different places and having different levels of confidence or support from their background, so what I really dug from this project was the different pieces that you can utilize in so many different circumstances,” Cadena said.

“I’ve lived some of the experiences that we’re hearing about on this project, and to try to balance what you’re hearing and absorbing with how to move us forward as a culture systemically is a juggling act,” Pierson said.

Show Notes

To learn about how to best support young people and use their voices as a guide for you work — or to view the webinar and download the presentation — take advantage of these resources:

Striving to Thriving Report
COVID-19 Youth Survey Findings

Be sure to visit our Past Webinars page for access to recordings and downloadable material from FCAN’s previous presentations.

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