• Berk Yalcinkaya

Career Club: WOP's Flagship Initiative

Updated: Jan 5, 2021

The last few posts have dealt primarily with the mission, goals, and visions of the Winston Opportunity Project with little reference to what we are actually doing to carry out our mission, meet our goals, and achieve our vision in which all youth have a chance at academic and vocational success. It’s easy to outline your goals and write about them, and it doesn’t take much to write about the problems that face our city, but taking action towards a solution requires much more than a search engine and a keyboard.

For us, Career Club is the first step. After establishing a partnership with Big Brothers Big Sisters in the spring, it was time to put our ideas to action. As our flagship initiative, we wanted the career club program to be both fun and engaging while also having a real impact on youth that participate. Our efforts were dedicated to creating an environment in which youth can have the guidance to set goals relating to their future as well as the support to work towards and achieve these goals. At the same time, students would be able to discover their strengths and interests and learn more about topics they’re interested in in a hands-on manner.

A career club meeting usually begins with group discussion. Due to covid restrictions, we are limited in the number of people who can be in the Big Brothers Big Sisters building, so rather than one-to-one mentorship, we chose to utilize a group mentorship model. In these groups, high school student mentors lead younger students through discussion in which students set goals and talk about their progress both in the classroom and out.

Next, we transition into career exploration. The focus of this portion of the meeting is less about the specifics of a certain career field, but more about what makes the field interesting and the rewards of working in the field. In other words, we want to provide information about career and academic topics that is relevant to our younger audience rather than bore them with details they won’t remember. Our goal here is to break down any preconceived ideas that students might have about certain career fields such as gender or racial bias, and we want students to understand that if they’re interested in a field, there is nothing stopping them from pursuing it.

Last meeting, we were joined by Winston Salem State’s professor in Marketing Notis Pagiavlas to talk about the basics of entrepreneurship, marketing, and business. He shared about his journey through his career field and talked about how we experience marketing in our everyday lives. To bring these principles to life, we transitioned into a modified shark tank activity where students became entrepreneurs. Students reflected on the process of entrepreneurship beginning with identifying a need and a market and then solving the need/problem and catering to the market by developing a good or service. The meeting wrapped up with the Shark Tank presentations where each group of students presented their business proposals to the sharks.

Through the Career Club effort, we hope to build a sense of self-efficacy in our students who go through our program. As students discover their interests, set goals, and achieve them, they learn that they can achieve a bright and successful future. Career Club embodies the equitable opportunity that we seek to create in our community, and by continuing to develop and expand our efforts, we hope to impact the lives of more youth and make our city a place where everyone can succeed.

Here from our students:

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