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OPDC School 2 Career

Preparing urban youth for college and career success

OPDC's School 2 Career program breaks the cycle of poverty by giving high school students academic support and paid internship opportunities with employers across the city of Pittsburgh. 100% of our students graduate from high school, get into college, and are Pittsburgh Promise eligible.



HundrED shortlisted this innovation

HundrED has shortlisted this innovation to one of its innovation collections. The information on this page has been checked by HundrED.

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February 2019
S2C holds students to a standard of professionalism and offers great individual support, resulting in what we experience as focused, motivated young people that have been able to contribute valuable perspectives to the areas we are exploring.

About the innovation

Creating Bright Futures

OPDC's School 2 Career program provides academic support and career exploration opportunities to Pittsburgh's at-risk youth. The program operates year-round, beginning with an extensive and comprehensive paid summer orientation. During the school year, students receive free tutoring, paid internships, Microsoft Office 2016 training and certification, SAT preparation, and assistance in applying to college.

School 2 Career is where CEOs (Career Exploration Officers) begin their journey. Our students explore college and career opportunities while they experience and developing new skills. They connect with professionals while expanding their future educational and professional options.


”My mom was the first in our family to go to college. In her time, not many women were encouraged to pursue education and didn’t have all the opportunities we have today. Because her experience was all I really knew about college, I figured I’d have to pursue one of the typical jobs. You know, a doctor, a lawyer, a teacher. Without S2C, I wouldn’t have known what to do. I knew I was interested in healthcare but had no idea how to focus that interest. At S2C I also learned a lot of important life skills that I hadn’t learned in high school like business etiquette and balancing a checkbook. I got a leg up getting those skills as a kid and preparing me for the real world." -A'Isha Jackson, S2C Class of 2010
"I want to give back to a positive program through helping students and leading them in the right direction. S2C went beyond providing professional and academic opportunities, also teaching me how to create plans to achieve my goals and how to advocate for myself."-Sean Thomas, S2C Class of 2009
This past year, our students achieved an average GPA of 3.0, logged over 4,000 hours of mentored job shadowing, volunteering, and training, and attended over 41 educational events!
"My involvement at S2C resulted in some incredible opportunities, including getting accepted to my top choice school and receiving a huge merit-based scholarship."-Cheyenne Vining, School 2 Career CEO
School 2 Career isn't just about after-school! Our yearly College and Career Fair gathers over two dozen colleges, universities, and local organizations, to showcase the wide array of opportunities available to our community's youth.
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Implementation steps

Identify target population
Where do the students live who you hope to serve? It is easy to want to help every student all at once, but a smaller, more concerted effort can grow if cultivated properly; a large, blanket effort is more likely to wear thin and lose momentum.
Find a space.
When selecting your Program Center, be sure to consider proximity to local public schools, transportation routes, and local neighborhoods. Will your Center be easy enough to get to that your potential students will not see the trip as an obstacle? Is it somewhat close to their schools/homes?
Secure staff.

One of these two staff members should have a background in Program Development, Networking, and Development/Stewardship. The other staff member will, ideally, have a background in Education and Mentorship in order to effectively implement S2C's internal Self-Regulated Executive Functioning (SREF) curriculum, in addition to providing academic support to program participants. It is often both helpful and mutually-beneficial to bring in volunteer tutors from local colleges and universities. In both cases, a strong professional network within the community is imperative in order to establish and maintain student work experience internship placements.

Create community partnerships
Occasionally, local partnerships will collaborate and organize into a collective of after-school programs. If this is the case, these organizations can be a wonderful resource for shared programming and "summit"-style events. If not, though, speak with as many local groups as possible, and be sure to highlight the collaborative nature of the program: students are not required to forgo other opportunities in order to take part in School 2 Career. Often, program staff can be hesitant to lose a student, so highlight the fact that School 2 Career will not "take away" any students from their rosters.
Get some kids!
This part is all leg-work: contact local school Guidance Counselors or Student Activities Directors to ask if you can share with them some information about your program; ask to have a meeting with them to discuss what you and your staff have to offer. Schools, especially urban schools, will often invite local institutions to join their faculty during student lunch periods, which is a great way to get face time with your potential participants. Believe in yourself and your program and it will show!

First, guide students through orientation. Orientation is four weeks and covers career research, professional etiquette and dress, financial literacy, resume building, mock interviews and a host of other topics that prepare students to take part in mentored work experiences.

One of the most important parts of orientation is the opportunity to establish relationships with the CEOs. Growth involves taking risks and trying new things, your students will not be willing to take those risks unless they trust you to shepherd them through the experience. This feeling of trust will also be instrumental as the relationships grow and deepen, as a major part of the School 2 Career program relies on honest reflection about academic and professional experiences.

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