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Career Academies Summer Stabilization Fund Expands Work Experiences for Students

Career Academies students stand together as a part of a program that prepares them for work in healthcare

Liz Williams


Greater Twin Cities United Way envisions a region where all youth have clear pathways to lifelong, purpose-driven, wealth-building careers with zero college debt. One way we’re supporting this vision is Career Academies, a United Way initiative that provides financial assistance and technical support to school districts to provide students with access to college and technical school courses and credits, industry credentials and relevant work experiences. Over the past five years, Career Academies has engaged over 8,000 students across 16 districts throughout Minnesota.

Our district partners are innovative, agile and focused on reimagining education for the 21st century. That is why we are excited to announce we are awarding $100,000 ($25,000 each) to four of our partner school districts – St. Paul Public Schools, Burnsville, St. Louis Park and White Bear Lake – to support nearly 100 students with work experiences this summer who otherwise wouldn’t have had these opportunities due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Effects of COVID-19 on Students and the Economy

Due to the disruptions of COVID-19, many students have found themselves in unchartered territory. For Career Academies students, summer is when they explore career opportunities and engage in meaningful work experiences. However, in an effort to keep students safe, our district partners estimate more than 50 percent of summer work opportunities offered through Career Academies have been postponed or moved online.

Students are rightfully concerned with their ability to earn money and contribute financially to their families and are seeking to connect with peers and mentors over the summer. Career Academies school districts are working to engage students during this time of distance learning and over the summer. One strategy is connection through engaging internships and connecting to caring adults at school. With declining opportunities for students, when the economy begins to recover, Black, Indigenous and students of color will experience exacerbated disparities.

How Career Academies is Filling the Gaps

The Career Academies Summer Stabilization Fund will support existing district partnerships to respond to COVID-19 disruptions in planned summer work experience and internships in summer 2020.

The funds will support students who are not already involved with a work experience program or who have lost a work opportunity due to COVID-19. This influx of targeted funding will allow districts to leverage their relationships with employer partners and fill gaps for student wages and summer work experiences. Districts will provide financial support for student internships in partnership with local employers and industry partners, such as Hiway Federal Credit Union. Work experiences will include mental health first-aid training, credentialing, health sciences, manufacturing and more.

Check back later this summer as we share the internship experience of a St. Paul Public School career pathways student who’s been supported by the fund.

Ways You Can Help

Over the past few weeks in the Twin Cities, we have seen young people demonstrate incredible resiliency, strength and vision for the future. Young people are leading the fight for justice – and as the adults that support them, we need to do the same.

The future of our economy is uncertain, but what is certain is that young people are incredible and ready to build a new future for themselves and our community. We just need to give them the opportunity.

This fund is made possible through a generous grant from the Thrivent Foundation, which has been a thoughtful and responsive partner amidst the COVID-19 crisis.

About the Author

Liz Williams is a Senior Program Officer for Career Academies, collaborating with school districts and partners to reimagine school systems as a lever for community wealth building. She has taught and worked in both urban and rural communities in New Mexico and Minnesota and is a licensed teacher. She received her Bachelor of Arts from University of Minnesota and her Master of Education Policy and Management from Harvard.

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