Saba Tesfaye, a 12-year-old rising eighth-grader, considered on Thursday a list of about 20 careers that might be a good fit for her based on her answers to an online questionnaire.
Among the positions — including website designer, journalist, TV host and stand-up comedian — which ones sounded good?
“I’m very open minded, so a lot of things,” the Eastern Middle School student said.
Saba is one of about 18 Montgomery County Public Schools students who participated in a pilot program July 7 through Friday with a self-explanatory name — Go2College.
The youth’s 10-day experience included exploring ways to prepare for college, what attending college really looks like, and how a degree can be the path to a career.
The program, which served as a camp this summer, was run through a partnership between the nonprofit Passion for Learning and Montgomery College Youth Programs and funded by the Campbell Family Foundation. This summer, it hosted students from Eastern, Sligo, Silver Spring International and Argyle middle schools, all in Silver Spring.
Many would be the first in their family to go to college.
Cynthia Rubenstein, executive director of Passion for Learning, said the program was designed to help the students learn, before they reach high school, more about what a college experience entails and how they can prepare for it.
“It’s become less abstract for them,” she said on the students’ second-to-last day.
They also learned about possible careers that suit their interests.
The youth have participated in Passion for Learning’s after-school programs for students from low-income families. They earned free admission into the camp based on their work in the after-school programs, class attendance and teacher recommendations.
Among a slew of activities, they designed a dorm room, developed resumes, created business cards reflecting a future career, deciphered college jargon, visited the Universities at Shady Grove campus in Rockville, and heard presentations from area college and university representatives.
The camp also offered several parent workshops with information and resources to help them learn about college as well, including how they can prepare in the preceding years.
Fourteen-year-old Alyssa Berrios, a rising ninth-grader headed to Montgomery Blair High School in Silver Spring, said her ideal job would be a photojournalist.
Alyssa, who would be the first in her family to graduate from college, said she has learned at the camp about what classes she can take in high school to prepare for college, what a college experience might feel like and which schools could help along an aspiring photojournalist.
Melvin Hodges, 14, said he will be a ninth-grader at Springbrook High School next year and plans to become a video game designer.
“I play a lot of video games,” he said. “I see the worlds people create and I want to create my world, as well.”
At the camp, he said, he learned about a Montgomery College program that could help him get the programming skills he would need to create those games.
Melvin said he’s also thought about becoming a prosecutor or a criminal defense lawyer and has had the chance to research those positions more in the program.
Rubenstein said that Passion for Learning wants to continue offering the program as a summer camp and also incorporate some parts of it into after-school programs. Another avenue being explored is a possible pilot that would add the program to the summer school day at Argyle Middle School.
James Paterson, the camp’s lead instructor and a counselor at Argyle, said he’s impressed with the progress the students have made over the two weeks, especially how more kids have a better idea of their career goals.
The camp has helped the idea of college become more concrete for the students, he said. It also has helped them understand that the work they do in the classroom can help improve themselves and their future.
“It changes their thinking about the school,” he said. “They see a reason for it.”