Tina Shoulders grew up in the Bronx and ended up as a successful clothing and furniture designer, a career she’d never heard of until college. “The only professionals in our neighborhood were law enforcement, doctors, and social workers,” she said. “And the world is so much bigger than that. I want kids to experience it even if only for the day.”
But to have a dream and be motivated to achieve it, you first have to know what’s out there. This June, Shoulders is launching Todayships, a website and app that will allow high school students to get a brighter glimpse of their possible futures. By logging into the site, students can arrange to spend the day visiting a company like Nickelodeon, Design*Sponge or West Elm, shadowing a creative professional. The visits give students something to do on the many working days when school is closed, such as Columbus Day, test prep or teacher planning days.
Plenty of research shows that boredom and lack of motivation is a leading cause of dropping out of high school. The perfect antidote is exposure to the working world. Whether through vocational programs or simply stronger ties to the community, it can greatly improve students’ chances of graduating to see a concrete example of what they might be. In years to come, contact with local youth and education may come to be seen as a core responsibility of any mission driven company.
Meanwhile, Shoulders will keep drawing the connections in her own life between being a creative professional and working to inspire youth. “I’m a runner, and I constantly pass students in the morning who are cutting class,” she says. “I started to ask them why and a lot of them just don’t see any reason to be there.” Her mission is to give them a reason.