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#CenteringStudentVoices: Elementary School Students on Career Aspirations and Pathways

Students at Invent Learning Hub, a K-8 school on the southeast side of Indianapolis, share on their career aspirations and school experiences -- and on how they're planning towards their chosen futures. #CenteringStudentVoices

Students in hallway

By Cece Zhou

April 15, 2021

From our conversations to date with students participating in our #CenteringStudentVoices series, we’ve heard many times over that they want to be safe and financially secure, and they seek to invest in experiences, opportunities, and wealth creation for themselves and their families. Indianapolis ranks 46th out of the 50 largest metro areas for upward mobility, with only 4.9% of children – and only 2.4% of Black boys – born into the lowest quartile of income moving into the highest quartile over the course of their lives.

TFA Indy is committed to working towards doubling the number of students in Indianapolis who are reaching key educational milestones that indicate they are on a path to economic mobility and a future filled with possibility.

Preparing students to be college and career ready must begin from a young age. At Invent Learning Hub (ILH), a K-8 school on the southeast side of Indianapolis, students are exposed to career exploration from kindergarten, and the school's career pathways curriculum begins in the third grade.

“I myself am a first-generation high school and college graduate in my family,” shared Aleicha Ostler, Executive Director of ILH. “During my 20+ years in education I have seen many students on that same path and there is a great need for mentoring and direction around planning for post-secondary.  Our goal at Invent Learning Hub is to engage the entire family alongside the student in knowing their options and how to meet their post-secondary goals.”

The past two school years since the school has been impacted by the pandemic, Director of Culture Rachel Chambers shifted the pathways curriculum to introduce Thrively, an online program that supports student to “discover [their] unique strengths, interests, and aspirations to build the skills they need for success in the K-12 classroom and beyond.”

The school empowers their students to take ownership of their futures through exploring and planning towards their career paths. In addition to planning for the future, the school also encourages student leadership and voices in school experiences. Hear from two students, 4th grader Alexandria Williams and 6th grader Hayden Wright, about their career aspirations and school experiences. Watch the interview videos with Alexandria and Hayden.

On their career aspirations and experiences that shaped their decisions

Hayden: “I want to be something in the law enforcement category. Ever since I was real little, like six or seven, I always had this tendency of wanting to help any and everyone one.” On the path he’ll need to take to pursue this career field, “By learning more about it because if I don’t know what I’m stepping into and I step into it, it’s pretty hard to get out of something…[the path] depends on what field in law enforcement. You have to go through school. For some others, you have to go to college for four years.”

Alexandria: “When I was about five, I went to this dancing club [to learn] ballet. So when I was there, my teacher gave us a starter, and then we would move on. I fell a lot, hit my head sometimes, and it was very fun. I decided I really wanted to be a dancer because I very much liked it. My teacher was super kind to me.

“I would like to be a dancer when I grow up because I have been doing ballet for a long time now, and I just want to know more about the history of the dance and more about where the culture came from.

“I don’t really have to go to college to become a dancer…I could go on a game show or make videos about it.”

On taking pathways class and using Thrively to explore future opportunities

Alexandria: “[Thrively is] a program that teaches you about your career and pretty much anything you want. So you could go on your career path and you can look up a lesson about dancing and they’ll give you a video about it. And at the end, you write a journal entry about things you liked, things you learned.”

Hayden: “Say you were a student and you didn’t know [what career to pursue]. You can just go on Thrively, and it’ll show you categories of all these careers you can do.

“Pathways I would advise to all schools because it is a direct way of telling your students, ‘Hey if you want to be in this job field, this is how much they make, how much work they do, what they do, what times they can work.’ Pathways is a very informal class to take.”

“I like that school gives me a challenge every day to wake up to. If I don’t have that challenge, then further on in life whenever I am challenged, I’ll be like, ‘Wait, I wasn’t prepared for this.'”

Hayden Wright

6th Grade Student, Invent Learning Hub

On their school experiences

Hayden: “I like that school gives me a challenge every day to wake u p to. If I don’t have that challenge, then further on in life whenever I am challenged, I’ll be like, ‘Wait, I wasn’t prepared for this.'

“My favorite class is reading. Reading would be a big part of my job when I grow up. Because I have to know how to ticket you, how to read your driver’s license. Reading is a big part of law enforcement.”

Alexandria: “My favorite class is design thinking, because they pretty much teach you about art and actually now we are learning about moths. So we’re doing this project on moths and we’re making little moths and coloring them and sticking them to the walls on or classroom so the next teacher can go find them.”

On what she likes most about school: “That I’m here with my friends. As other schools are doing, we are on virtual learning. And they don’t really get to learn up close to our teacher, and there’s a lot of things that happen to computers that [make it difficult to] learn correctly. But here at ILH, we can be on virtual learning or in person.”

On what they would change about their school

Alexandria: “If I was going to change one thing about this school, it’s that the upper grades can’t have recess. Because we don’t have recess like kindergarten and 1st grade. I would change that the higher grades should have it too.”

[Note: ILH does not currently offer students recess because of the shortened school day due to the pandemic; the school typically provides a full recess for all students.]

Hayden: “I would change the [amount of] supplies because I feel like in school you need more supplies. I know sometimes I’ll be looking for this and having more of it [would be valuable].”


Learn more about our #CenteringStudentVoices web series.

Tune in to our next #CenteringStudentVoices live discussion with Leila Champion on April 21.

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