Exposing Guilford County Schools’ (GCS) middle school students to more possibilities when it comes to their future is the driving force behind several new initiatives from Say Yes Guilford (SYG) and GCS.

The programs rolling out in the 2021-22 school year are designed to help students identify their career interests, understand their strengths, and give them opportunities to experience industries in a deeper, more impactful way.

 Beginning in fall, all 7th and 8th graders will have the opportunity to take the YouScience Discovery assessment. Students will go beyond the question “What do I want to be when I grow up?” to explore how their brain tackles challenges, how what they are learning in school applies to the “real world,” and the exciting opportunities available to them after graduation.

In the winter, students will explore careers inside a one-of-its-kind Mobile Innovation Lab in production now. Say Yes Guilford is partnering with Forge Greensboro to create this unique makers-space for middle schoolers to imagine, build and create.

Finally, in the Spring of 2022, GCS and SYG will roll out The Perfect Pitch, an entrepreneurial experience for 8th graders. Students will work in teams to create a “pitch” for a product, service or good. They will then go on to pitch their ideas to a panel of industry professionals in a “Shark Tank-like” competition.

Guilford County Schools Chief Innovation Officer Eboni Chillis says early exposure to advanced careers is critical to students’ secondary and post-secondary success. “The ability to picture themselves in a career they may never have considered before can be a great motivator moving forward. Knowing they have the abilities at a young age can give them the confidence to strive for that goal through middle school, high school and later in their college or career.”

Say Yes Guilford CEO Wendy Poteat says, “For a child to dream, they have to see. Our children can be superstars in aviation, manufacturing, healthcare, education, the arts and so much more; we have to show them what they can do and a path to make it happen.”

 This GCS-SYG partnership to expose all middle schoolers to growing career fields underscores the commitment to bring equity to opportunity.  Say Yes Guilford Chief Impact Officer Amanda Rosemann says, “Students can only dream of being the professionals they actually see in front of them. Work like this brings more exposure opportunities to all students, increasing their ability to dream bigger and succeed greater.”

 “GCS is proud to offer a variety of opportunities and choices for our students through CTE programs, magnet schools, dual enrollment opportunities and more,” said GCS Superintendent Sharon L. Contreras, PhD. “We are enthusiastic about working alongside with Say Yes Guilford to provide greater exposure to careers for our students, helping those students realize their potential, and drawing clear connections about how they can utilize educational opportunities to achieve their life goals.”

 Say Yes Guilford’s system of kindergarten-to-career supports is designed to give students the tools they need to graduate career or college ready and offers scholarship dollars to ease the burden of higher education. Working hand-in-hand with Guilford County Schools and following the goals of the district’s strategic plan, SYG strives to ignite learning and lift up every student to succeed at the highest level. GCS graduates are joining Guilford County’s dynamic workforce as innovators and leaders. “An educated and inspired workforce drives economic development and community engagement which only makes Guilford County an even better place to work, play and live,” Rosemann says.

 Since its inception in 2015, Say Yes Guilford has partnered with GCS to provide thousands of hours of tutoring, college prep and financial aid workshops, and career counseling to students. Thanks to generous community support SYG has awarded more than $11.4 million to GCS graduates, and our partnership with more than 100 private colleges and universities provided another $25.4 million for a total scholarship impact of more than $36.5 million.

 Say Yes Guilford is committed to providing access to support services and scholarships designed to prepare Guilford County Schools’ students for success in college, career and life.