There is a pervasive narrative that has filled the halls of our schools, dinner tables and ultimately the mindsets of our young people for the past several decades, that is, the best and sometimes the only good pathway is through a college degree.
The Hendricks Family Foundation began our entre’ into the work of broadening this narrative back in 2015 and 2016. Back then, Hendricks CareerTek was in the pre-implementation stages and the Foundation was funding a pilot Career Advocacy program at Beloit Memorial High School. What those programs evidenced and is still true today is a determination on the part of the Foundation to help to ensure that the young people in Beloit have a successful pathway into adulthood. In our case heavy emphasis is focused on careers, careers that may include a job out of high school, technical school, an apprenticeship, even the military. College may be great for some, but we love exposing kids to blue collar careers as well.
We believe having the skills and determination to work is critical to life success. What does each young person have the drive and aptitude to do? How do we help them explore opportunities in meaningful ways? How do we educate young people about the opportunities that exist here in their hometown? How do we connect our youth to employers – early and often – and engage employers in the work of educating our youth? How do we create accessible pathways for ALL our children? All of these questions drive our career-focused investments.
Although our specific portfolio of funded programs has shifted some since the beginning, this focus continues as a central priority of the Foundations work:
- CareerTek continues to grow. Partnering with area schools, parents and the homeschool community, the program is expected to serve at least 1,250 young people in 2023. The program is adding both space and tools to expand hands on pathways in the trades, robotics and healthcare. In addition to after-school and summer programming, CTek is working with local businesses in the trades to host the second community-wide, Dare to Dream event. The event is a fun-filled day of hands-on exploration activities and an opportunity for older youth to meet and interact with local employers.
- The Lincoln Academy (TLA), Beloit’s first independent public charter school, opened in 2021 as a K12 model focused on rigorous academics, character development and yes, careers; career exploration – beginning in kindergarten – is a foundational pillar of the TLA model.
- In 2023, the Foundation awarded a two-year grant to the Welty Environmental Center to add an Education Specialist dedicated to increasing programming offerings including exploration of environmental based career options.
All of this work is not only helping our youth but equally important, it is helping to reshape the narrative we tell our kids about the kinds of opportunities available to them and the value of work – all work. There is still much to do, but we are pleased to be a part of helping kids see and understand the array of opportunities available to them and to help them see and develop their own potential.