More than ever, Career Exploration programs can help students connect the dots between school and career opportunities – and help them understand the skills they will need for real-world jobs in their futures.
In Texas, a company called Rocket21 is working hard to give students broad exposure and real insight to the working world they will one day enter.
In late 2009, Rocket21’s founders joined together to build a platform where kids might explore their interests and passions – and safely interact online with professionals from all walks of life. Linking youth to their inspirations – through individuals from the worlds of business, science, education, the arts, community service, philanthropy and more – the company aims to help students expand their horizons and gain relevant insights into real-world career opportunities.
To build youth engagement across the country, Rocket21 initially launched a series of competitions entitled “Dream Big” – with partners including Nat Geo Wild, NASA, Captain Planet Foundation, Turner Endangered Species Foundation, Universal Music, and many more. Rocket21 Challenge winners have attended a Presidential Inauguration, been honored at The White House Science Fair, performed onstage at Carnegie Hall, attended VIP events at Kennedy Space Center, and participated in wildlife biology events at Yellowstone, among many other experiences.
In 2016, Rocket21 responded to growing interest in middle school career exploration programs to fill a need made more urgent by Texas State legislative mandates. Partnering with Texas Education Service Center Region 6, Rocket21 launched Texas21, a digital career exploration curriculum based on the Rocket21 platform and aligned to Texas Essential Knowledge Standards (TEKS) required for 8th grade students, and the 16 Career Clusters.
Now in its second year of delivery, Texas21 offers educators a dynamic blend of content, challenges, and connections to real-world PROs that deeply engage students in exploring their futures as they develop their required high school graduation plans. The company has worked to secure funding from Texas-based companies for schools unable to license the curriculum. Texas21’s classroom reports provide new insights about student hopes and dreams, a better understanding of areas in which students need additional planning support, and student “snapshots” for teachers, counselors and parents to use as discussion tools. In addition, participating districts have access to student interest data to guide high school staffing and instructional planning decisions. Texas teachers have reported high levels of student engagement in the Texas21 program relative to other offerings in the career exploration space. One Texas 8th grader said it best, “I love Texas21. It’s the first course I’ve ever taken that is all about me and my life.”
In November 2017, Rocket21 was notified that the United States Patents and Trademark Office has approved the issuance of a U.S. patent to protect the company’s unique approach to connecting youth with professional experts, making it “safe for kids and easy for PROs” to connect and share.
The company is prepared to expand its career exploration program across the nation, customizing its curriculum to each state’s requirements. The program is available for middle and high school students, with a variety of options for implementation.