Rural Community Alliance – Just and Thriving Rural & Remote Futures

Seeing the trend of work-from-home opportunities increasing throughout the US, Rural Community Alliance’s Just and Thriving Remote Futures Initiative hopes to bring remote work opportunities to students in rural communities throughout Arkansas. After listening to a diverse group of young people across the state, this initiative will tap into the creative and entrepreneurial spirit of their students to get them the support they need to be able to stay local and work successfully from home. This initiative elevates the voices of rural youth in the larger conversation of remote work and creates mechanisms, using both digital and pop-up gatherings, for youth to design the learning experiences, networks, and programs they need to succeed in remote careers. 

“Rural youth have an enormous stake in the future of remote work and their voices and aspirations should be centered in the planning and implementation of state and national programs,” says Sara Bishop, co-imagineer of Reimagine Arkansas. “By flipping the usual top-down feedback model, Reimagine’s listening and text-based portal processes can ensure school-to-career remote pathways reflect and are accountable to the needs of youth in rural communities.”

For more information about Rural Community Alliance and the Just and Thriving Remote Futures Initiative, visit You can also learn about their partner organization Reimagine Arkansas at

Trio New College Network – 3-D Learning

Trio New College Network, Gateway U Hybrid College, and K-12 education partners LEAD Charter School & Great Oaks Legacy Charter School, have come together to create a model aiming to unify three currently disconnected “dimensions” of our current education system – K-12, higher education, and workforce development – in order to eliminate barriers to student success. 

High school students participating in the program via Gateway U, New Jersey’s first hybrid college, will enroll in college-level courses mapped to state graduation requirements, allowing them to earn dual credit. Through a partnership with Southern New Hampshire University’s pioneering competency-based education program, College for America, students will take project-based courses designed in collaboration with major employers to prepare them for the workforce. After graduating high school, students will be automatically accepted into the BA program at Southern New Hampshire University and placed into jobs with local employer partners. Due to the flexible, asynchronous structure of College for America, students will have the opportunity to both work and attend school simultaneously. Moreover, as students work to complete their degrees, Gateway U will provide them access to study space, wrap-around support services, and personalized academic and career counseling.

Saymah Nah

“The Catalyze Challenge raises the importance of strategic collaboration across career, college, and high schools. By strengthening the pipeline between education and career, everyone benefits, including students, families, employers, schools, and our greater society. As the first hybrid college in NJ, Gateway U is excited to work with Catalyze partners to increase opportunities and improve outcomes for students.” – Saymah Nah, Executive Director at Gateway U

For more information about Trio New College Network, go to And you can learn about their partner organization, Gateway U Hybrid College at

CodeSpeak Labs – The Next Step

The Next Step is a creative agency of BIPOC high school students from underserved communities in California and New York, working with professional mentors from CodeSpeak Labs. The agency gives students real-world professional experience doing web development and social media marketing for mission-driven organizations. 

Students work closely with mentors, including professional graphic designers and web developers. The program prioritizes students achieving milestones of a professional workplace and gaining practical, applicable skills that allow students to make a career out of their passions without a college degree. The Next Step enables students to use their passion for art and technology in ways that directly translate into real-world experience, impact, and a paycheck.

Students meet virtually during the pandemic

“Students told us that the continued lockdown made them feel like their dreams and goals were on hold. They felt stuck. At the same time, they found solace in social media and creating digital art at home.” – Jen Chiou, Founder, CodeSpeak Labs

For more information about CodeSpeak Labs and The Next Step, go to

BUILD – BUILDing Generation Entrepreneurs

BUILD‘s mission is to ignite the potential of youth in under-resourced communities to build Career success, Entrepreneurial mindsets, and Opportunity. The aim is to help youth become CEO’s of their own lives. BUILD partners with educators across the United States with Regional Hubs in the San Francisco Bay Area, Washington D.C., Boston and New York.

The BUILD team are incredibly excited to have been chosen for an Ignite award to support the development of their digital badging program. Part of BUILD’s career-connected focus to help youth from middle and high school, the digital badging program helps build the professional skills for the world of work. 

By providing a competency-based assessment system that gamifies the learning experience, youth will gain a mastery of 21st-century, career, and life skills, while their earned online badges document their learning.  It begins with opportunities that reinforce a proven four-year Entrepreneurship Curriculum, including career readiness, and marketable job skills. Through strategic partnerships with industry leaders, youth complete modules (e.g., resume writing) and obtain industry-recognized certifications (e.g., Microsoft Office Suite). 

As youth are engaged (with BUILD’s guidance), they will understand the connections between what they learn and badges they earn to the skills needed for future careers and ultimately build their social capital, and create economic mobility. Their capacity to impact their communities will grow and these lifelong learners will be able to lead the change they want to see in the world.

For more information about BUILD and BUILDing Generation Entrepreneurs, go to

Aecern – At The Cutting Edge

Rapidly evolving technologies like AI, advanced manufacturing, robotics, and data science are transforming our society and opening up important new career opportunities, but also exacerbating inequities that disproportionately impact minorities and women. Aecern’s At the Cutting Edge program addresses this urgent challenge by engaging students in grades 6 and up in these emerging technologies and associated careers while working on solutions to urgent, authentic problems facing professionals in these fields.

Featured professionals are selected to reflect the diversity in demographics, background, education and technologies required for an effective and inclusive workforce of the future. Students engage with these career role models virtually on the Scoutlier digital learning platform as they imagine, design, share and pitch their solutions. This program is being piloted with educators in Tampa FL and is available nationally.

“Rapid Innovation inspires children to be problem solvers as the students of all ages participate in the analysis of a community need and come together to creatively solve the problem.” – Nathan, Grade 11

“We will be able to reach underrepresented students through the platform and provide them with experiences that will acquaint them with prospective career pathways, such as a career in medicine. This will also diversify careers that historically have an underrepresentation of African American and Latinx people.” – Simone Brookins Jenkins, PhD

For information about Aecern and At the Cutting Edge, visit

Hack the Hood – Designing a High School to Tech Career Pathway

Hack the Hood uplifts early career youth and communities of color through tech skill-building programs grounded in justice. They also provide career navigation support that ensures economic mobility. 

Hack the Hood is piloting a one-year community college cohort experience for learners to obtain a Computer Information Systems Associate of Science degree and/or STEM certification, and land a paid tech career opportunity. Fellows will receive a monthly stipend, career mobility training, and work with mentors throughout the program. Fellows will be connected to experiential learning opportunities with local small businesses and tech companies, and will participate in regular peer and mentor resource sessions. In partnership with Laney Community College, learners will receive foundational math, computational thinking, and career development skills while ensuring they have a positive first introduction to tech that motivates further learning and persistence. 

Since 2013, Hack the Hood has served over 1,300 learners of color, ages 16-25, by teaching them web design fundamentals and paying them to build websites for over 450 small business owners across the Bay area. In 2020, Hack the Hood developed its curriculum to increase the technical rigor, to include data science fundamentals, and to ground it in tech justice — using technology to build community-based solutions.

“My goal is to continue the work we’ve begun years ago to help young people find employment and find themselves – we’re in the business of people development. What sets us apart is our vision: we want students of color to see themselves in the tech space.”  – Tiffany Shumate, Hack the Hood Executive Director

“Computer Science is a powerful tool that allows me to use few resources to make large, positive impact on my community.” – Hack the Hood Learner

For more information about Hack the Hood and Designing a High School to Tech Career Pathway, visit

Cultívate – Cultívate Pathways

Cultívate Pathways aims to reduce the gap in educational equity that exists for English language learners. This nationwide program provides paid work-based experiences to English learner students in 11th grade through college, delivering credentials that will lead to higher pay in one year. Students will receive training in industries such as coding, IT and construction, integrated with English language learning. Students will also be provided mentoring relationships and social-emotional supports. Cultívate will also partner with immigrant-student serving industry leaders in higher education to provide additional postsecondary opportunities for Cultívate trainees. Ultimately, Cultívate works to deliver economic mobility for English Learners and immigrant students so that young people can lead fulfilling lives and break generational poverty.