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“Todayships” Offer Bronx Teens A Chance To Get A Foot In The Business World’s Door

Rich kids can visit their mom’s office for the day. Todayships gives inner-city kids the same option.

“Todayships” Offer Bronx Teens A Chance To Get A Foot In The Business World’s Door
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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.”

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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.

On the company side, meanwhile, the time and resource commitment is much lower than for mentorship or corporate tutoring programs such as Citizen Schools, which works with companies like Google and Bank of America. But Shoulders believes that even a brief introduction can help teenagers build their social capital and their sense of possibility. Her other social enterprise, Exposure Camp, holds popup workshops giving students a chance to try digital media and design, like a midnight basketball league for Javascript.

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.

About the author

She’s the author of Generation Debt (Riverhead, 2006) and DIY U: Edupunks, Edupreneurs, and the Coming Transformation of Higher Education, (Chelsea Green, 2010). Her next book, The Test, about standardized testing, will be published by Public Affairs in 2015.

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