Bridging the gap between school and the world beyond
Navigating the Real World, Inc. (NtRW) helps people in their teens and 20s deal with important life decisions and challenging circumstances. NtRW does this by bringing them the perspectives of people with recent, relevant experience directly related to their personal priorities and prospective future paths. These include the voices of people in their 20s and of people who hire and supervise new employees. NtRW helps young adults increase their success at getting and holding jobs, finding a satisfactory career, getting education and training that moves them forward, and dealing with challenges, financial matters, and living on their own. NtRW is a Maine nonprofit 501(c)3 organization.
NtRW has been building the organization in Maine to develop the technology, to test and refine our systems and operations for marketing, content development and student participation, and to determine what is appealing and effective with our audiences: teens, 20s, teachers, parents, employer. What proves itself we will consider rolling our more widely.
Dimensions of the problem
All too often young adults are making critical life decisions with little solid information and little experience-based input from people who have been down the roads they are contemplating.
Schools tend to focus on preparing students for the next level of school, not for life after schooling is completed. There is little or no guidance for young adults after they leave high school and face many real life challenges for the first time. Many high school grads are not college ready, especially in the ares of writing and math. (In a study where all of the juniors at 13 Maine high schools were given the ACCUPLACER, 76% flunked the math.)
Success rates in high school, community colleges and other post high school programs are unacceptably low overall and worse for economically disadvantaged. For example, the SMCC graduation 3-year rate is 19%, while EMCC’s is 28%. Husson’s 6-year rate is 40%; UMaine is 58%.
Many of those students who successfully complete their programs turn out to be unprepared to compete for good jobs. Over half of the people 25 and under with a BA are employed in jobs that don’t require college education.
Due to the high costs of post high school programs and the resulting increased borrowing to cover these costs, many students are leaving school with debts in the $40,000 to $100,000 range and even higher. Total student debt in the US is now greater than total credit card debt!
It can make a big difference for people in their teens and 20s to hear from their older peers, people with experience farther down paths that they are considering.
NtRW Publications Across Multiple Media
IN PRINT – For High School Students
Navigating the Real World – Our first Maine edition was published in April of 2010 and distributed to all Maine high school students. We publish new Maine editions each school quarter – in September, November, February and April. These printed editions are based substantially on the stories at our website (www.navigatingtherealworld.org) of people in their mid-to-late 20s about all aspects of their experiences after high school, including college, training, jobs, careers, and living on their own, as well as their surprises, mistakes and challenges along the way. They feature employer perspectives, career information, alternative paths, resources for teens and 20s, etc. They are linked to NavigatingTheRealWorld.org to draw people in to “the rest of the story” there, for updated information, to broaden awareness of the site and to increase use of the site, and to encourage submissions and involvement with the creation, publication and distribution of Navigating the Real World and other NtRW initiatives. The printed editions have been very well received by teachers, counselors and students, and are being used extensively in advisory groups and other contexts.
We published our first New Hampshire printed edition this past spring. We are considering getting started in Vermont as well and continuing to expand in New England and beyond.
IN PRINT – for the Parents’ of Teens
The Maine Parents’ Guide to Middle School, High School and Beyond – In the fall of 2011 we published our first edition of The Maine Parents’ Guide to Middle School, High School and Beyond. This includes interviews with parents whose children have recently been through the process and come out the other end, as well as with a range of individuals in their mid- to late 20s. They focus on recounting their experiences and what they have learned that would be valuable for others who may soon be following them. We will also include common challenges, mistakes to avoid and the perspectives of various experts. This is being distributed through middle and high schools in the fall, winter and spring of this year.
IN PRINT – for Middle School Students
The Maine Guide to High School and Beyond – Editions will first be published this winter and spring. It is now being developed with help of students at several middle school who will be doing interviewing and other tasks. It will be distributed to middle school students across the state.
ON THE WEB: NrRW.org and BangorDailyNews.com/education
This site is our core collection of video interview segments where all of our content is visible and searchable. At the site, we are recruiting stories and experiences to be posted online and for all of our upcoming publications. It now contains over 2200 segments from people in their 20s and from people who hire and work with new employees. Our newly designed site, NtRW.org, will be launched later in November. Also selected video and text content is now being featured the Bangor Daily News site with new content updates regularly.
BY FACEBOOK: Navigating the Real World Facebook Page
This e-publication is intended to be entertaining as well as to maintain contact with and encourage the involvement of our student members. It provides links to content at our site and to other web content of interest. We are planning to enhance its teen appeal and to actively work on supporting it and marketing it with a college freshman taking a lead role.
OTHER OFFERINGS: A variety of printed and electronic
A number of ideas are in the works for printed and electronic products and services that help teens and 20s make better-informed decisions and build promising futures.
Projects and Initiatives for Maine Schools
Using our Content in Advisory, Career Exploration and other High School Contexts
We continue to collect and organize video and text quotes and other content that are especially relevant to the objectives of Maine high schools’ advisory programs, career exploration efforts and initiatives to prepare students for life after schooling. We also outline recommended uses of our printed edition of Navigating the Real World in these contexts. It has been used in most high schools as new editions have been published each school quarter since the spring of 2010. Our seventh edition will be out this month.
The Interview Project
This project involves high school and college students interviewing people with recent real world experience that is related to their interests for publication through NtRW and NavigatingTheRealWorld.org. We are lining up classes to participate in this project by having their students plan, conduct and edit interviews and then post the resulting segments to NavigatingTheRealWorld.org. This has been done at a number of high schools in Maine and now in New Hampshire as well. The value gained by the students who participate in setting up, conducting and editing interviews is very substantial.
We have offered internships for high school and college age students during the school year and in the second summer. Participants do interviewing in their home areas and play a major role in helping us create our coming year’s publications and can help in other ways, too.
Employer and Industry Perspectives
Through interviews and direct postings, we are gathering the advice of people involved in hiring and supervising new employees: What helps and what hurts a job candidate’s prospects? What mistakes have they seen? What about succeeding and failing on the job? What careers and industries offer the best opportunities going forward? We have posted a number of employer interviews at NavigatingTheRealWorld.org. The site supports direct posting as well. We are seeking postings and interviews with a wide range of Maine employers and industries. High school students can participate by interviewing people who manage organizations that they are curious about. This is a very valuable project for the students. They benefit from planning and arranging each interview, learning about the organizations, and making connections with employers and managers who may be very helpful to them with advice and networking.
College and Program Reviews
Through interviews, direct postings and recordings, we are gathering the experiences of people who have recently attended each of Maine’s colleges and specific programs. We’re interested in learning the answers to such questions as: How valuable was this program? Did it lead to a job in a career field that was intended? Was it worth the cost and debt incurred? If you were starting out now would you attend this college and program? Who succeeded in this program and who didn’t? What can you do to increase your chances of success? Interviews and direct postings can now be made regarding college and program reviews at NavigatingTheRealWorld.org.
Our Conference: Advisory Groups: Building an Effective Program
NtRW organized a statewide conference for people who plan and oversee advisory groups in Maine high schools. This is our most important distribution channel and the most widespread existing venue where important big picture issues can be addressed with all grades of high school students. We’ll plan to do this annually.
The Campaign for Real World Results
The Campaign for Real World Results is an initiative by employers to help focus schools, teachers and students on key skill areas that have critical long-term real world consequences for students in their lives beyond schooling. These include: writing skills, mathematical problem solving, and applied quantitative analysis. These are key deficit areas that result in high percentages of high school graduates being required to take non-credit remedial classes in college. Other priorities include financial literacy, understanding the economy and career opportunities, and well grounded postsecondary planning advice. We are beginning this in Maine now and also in New Hampshire.
Conferences on Improving College and Career Readiness
This school year we are planning conferences for middle and high school educators to be held in multiple locations – Portland, Bangor/Orono and Presque Isle – that are focused on improving readiness in writing and soon in Math. These are the two most critical skill areas. Weaknesses in both areas among Maine’s high school grads are seriously limiting their college and career prospects.
Digital Offerings Being Planned
An unbiased Maine guide to postsecondary education and careers that make sense – ones that are smart financial investments that prepare you for careers where there will be openings and where the pay is good
- Could be both a printed edition and a Web-based resource
- Other Offerings and Initiatives Under Consideration
Publishing local or regional editions
- Former Student Survey – of all former students in a single class 5-7 years out
- Offering interviewing and reporting as an independent study, community service or service learning for credit
- Video publications – Produced pieces about specific topics
- One-pagers – Topic specific publications (as PDFs) that can be used at any time
- Grade level editions
Using current technologies – interactive website, Facebook, print and DVDs – to communicate to Maine’s young adults.
Collecting, organizing and distributing good information and advice from a wide range of people with recent experience directly related to the issues and decisions that Maine’s teens and young adults face
Focusing our offerings, our themes and messages so that they reinforce the value of evaluating choices and potential avenues in light of these priorities, and seeking out the advice of people with related experience – through NtRW and elsewhere.
- Founder and Executive Director, Tom Tracy – former teacher of at-risk students in the Bonny Eagle High School alternative education program (six years); President, Away.com Travel Services Division; founder and President, AdventureQuest.com; founder, executive VP Deep River Publishing; VP and General Manager DeLorme Mapping; Business Developer, Coastal Enterprises, Inc.; Marketing Systems Analyst, L.L. Bean; MBA, Cornell University; BS, UNH.
- Overall Editor, Aurora Cobb – a recent Bard graduate with considerable experience in writing, editing, organizing and web development.
Board of Directors
- Michael Brennan – former State Senate Ed Committee Chair, Majority Leader, counselor
- Michele Hylen, NtRW Secretary – Executive Director, SequelCare of Maine
- Kathy Locker, NtRW Treasurer – school counselor; former President, Maine School Counselors Assoc.
- Dwight Sholes – Founder and former President, Quotient Marketing; marketing manager and consultant
- Tom Tracy – NtRW President Executive Director
Maine Advisory Committee
- Wendy Ault – Executive Director, MELMAC Education Foundation
- Michael Bourque – VP Marketing and Communications, MEMIC; former journalist
- Lynn Brown – Dean of Student Affairs, Saint Josephs College
- Dana Connors – President, Maine State Chamber of Commerce
- Bob Cott – Partner, CD&M Communications
- Bruce Daman – Marketing Director, Hannaford Brothers
- John Dorrer – Program Director, Jobs for the Future, former, Maine DOL
- Nova Ewers – marketing manager, Beach Glass Transitions
- Bernardo Feliciano – IT Administrator, Maine Audobon, former educator
- Michael Fern – Publisher, The Maine Edge
- Ellen Golden – Sr. VP, Coastal Enterprises, Inc.
- Layne Gregory – Founder and former Executive Director, Boys to Men
- Morgan Grumbach – Sales Manager, Atlantic Coast Radio
- Erich Hunter – Director, Combined Federal Campaign, United Way of Eastern Maine
- Joanne Lannin – H.S. journalism and English teacher; former Maine journalist
- John Lincoln – former Maine business executive
- Jeff Mao – Director, Maine Dept of Education school laptop program
- Jean Mattimore – Maine Community College System
- Jen Meader – Guidance Counselor, Maranacook High School, Secretary Maine Counseling Association
- Nicholas McCrea – Reporter, Bangor Daily News
- Maria Millard – HEP Program Facilitator (migrant worker education), Syntiro
- Deb Neuman – Deputy Commissioner, Maine DECD; host of Back to Business
- Bill Olsen – Maine Jumpstart Coalition for Personal Financial Literacy; VP TD Bank
- Edward O’Meara – Marketing and political consultant
- Sue Orlowski – Cooperative education and career exploration teacher, BEHS
- Jon Paradise – Governmental & Public Affairs Manager, Maine Credit Union League
- Emanuel Pariser – Program Director, Maine Academy of Natural Sciences (Goodwill-Hinckley)
- Scott Phair – Director, Capital Area Technical Center
- Lisa Plimpton – Director of Research, Mitchell Institute
- Michael Quinlan – Law Partner, Jensen Baird Gardner and Henry
- Rick Rector – VP/Publisher, United Publications
- Shelley Reed – former State Coordinator for School Counselors, Alt Ed, Homeless Youth
- Bill Robinson – Senior Enterprise Architect, Wright Express
- David Ruff – Executive Director, Great Schools Partnership
- Tom Santospago – General Manager, Lee Auto Malls; former President, Prime Motor Group
- Frank Sherburne – Superintendent of Schools, SAD 6 (Bonny Eagle)
- Aaron Splint – TD Bank manager
- Tom Travers – Global Technical Lead, Computer Sciences Corp.
- Zark VanZandt – USM Professor in Human Resource Dept, focus: career counseling
- Meg Weston – USM VP Development, former Chair UMaine Board of Trustees, Corp. Exec., Consultant
- Britton Wolfe – Principal, Biddeford High School
New Hampshire Advisory Committee
- Julie Braley – Talent Manager, Riverwoods of Exeter
- Fred Bramante – Former Chair & Current Member, New Hampshire State Board of Education
- Carol Evans – Corporate and Nonprofit organizational consultant in New Hampshire
- Gregory Franklin – President, GSFA Consulting
- Skip Hanson – former Exeter Superintendent, current coordinator for NH of New England states school improvement initiative
- Jeremy Hitchcock – CEO and CFO, Dyn, Inc.
- Cheryl McDonough – co-principal for Great Bay eLearning Charter Academy
- Neil McGregor – VP of Learner Dev, goQ software
- Lisa Miller – UNH Associate Professor of Journalism
- Chris Mullin – Sales and marketing executive
- Priscilla Parisien – Executive Director of NH-Jobs for America’s Graduates
- Scott Power – Director, NH Scholars Initiative
- John Shea – Leader of innovative new high school being developed in Rochester, NH
- Adam Schroadter – N.H. House of Representatives, Resources, Recreation, & Development, Owner of Stone Church Music Club,
- Dan Tobin – General Manager, Stenhouse Publishers
- Yusi Wang Turell – Launch Consultant at the UNH Center for Social Innovation & Community Finance
- Steve Whitman, CEO, Whitman Communication
- Nancy Winterbottom – Newmarket Coordinator, School to Career Partnership
Tom Tracy, Executive Director
Aurora Cobb, Editor
Allie O’Brien, Facebook Editor
Pete Curtis, Middle School Projects Editor