Supporting Student’s Education Journeys

This week was “Empowered People, Empower People” week at Coastside Leadership Academy and we took this opportunity to start talking about our student’s journeys after CLA. We dedicated an entire day for our students to envision what they would like their lives to be like if they were to graduate that day. We were intentional about the scaffolding of the lesson so they did not feel overwhelmed because the future can be hard to think about. Our system had four steps: validating self worth, examining personal gifts, creating a list of current interests, and determining how to combine personal gifts and interests to share them with the world. Watching the process unfold with our students was magical.

Validating Self Worth– We started the day with an uplifting warm up so our students felt worthy and in their power. We did not want our students to think about their futures from a standpoint of being scared that they were not doing or accomplishing enough. Our message was that they are exactly where they are supposed to be in this chapter of their journey. 

For the activity, we handed out small pieces of paper, and had our students think about and write down all the reasons why they are enough.

“I am enough because I care.”

“I am enough because I woke up today.”

“I am enough because I try my best.”

They wrote down every justification they could think of, folded up the small pieces of paper, and then threw them into the center of the circle. Once the mound of papers had grown, everyone took a random piece of small paper and read it aloud. We went in a circle, taking turns reading all of the reasons why we are enough and validated the point, until everything was read. It was a powerful community builder and self esteem booster that acted as the foundation for the next part of the conversation. 

Examining Personal Gifts– Next, we had students fold a page in their notebooks in half, creating two columns. At the top of one column we wrote “Student’s Gifts” and on the second we wrote “Student’s Interests.” We explained to the students that everyone is born with gifts that they share with the world. Some examples of personal gifts are kindness, artistic ability, listening skills, or loving nature. We know that sometimes teenage girls can be self critical and can have a hard time seeing their own strengths, so we had the group help. We passed the notebooks around the circle and everyone had 2 minutes to write down the gifts they feel the other person brings to our community. Once everyone had a chance to write in every notebook, we took time for the students to read the gifts others see in them. The lists filled up more than one page and they felt uplifted by their peers. We asked our students to highlight the gifts that resonated with them and add others to the list that they wanted to include. 

Creating an Interest List– In the interest column of their notebooks, we had students write down all of the things they were currently interested in. We noted that this list will evolve throughout their lives, but not to worry about that during this exercise. Students wrote down a wide range of interests from animal training and behavior, backpacking, advocacy work, and problem solving. 

From there, we gave students time to reflect on both lists and draw connections. We asked students to see if any of their gifts and interests were related.

Sharing With The World– For the final step in our process, we posed the question:

“If today was your last day at CLA, how would you combine your gifts and interests and share them with the world?”

A student with their education journey map.

We allowed students to draw, write, or use any mode of communication to show how they would use their gifts to contribute to society and I was blown away by the results! One student made an entire business plan on a slide deck for a horse boarding ranch. They outlined three ways the ranch could create income, how many employees they needed, the amount of space, and even designed a logo. It was a beautiful presentation and it aligned perfectly with their gift for and interest in working with horses. 

Another student wrote about a non-profit organization they want to start to uplift members of the LGBTQIA+ community who are not supported by their families. The student created plans for housing and college tuition assistance, as well as mental health services. The plan combined their gift for helping others, and their interests in psychology and advocacy work. It was so cool!

I am proud of how we talked to our students about their futures this week. We did it in a way that was structured so they felt supported and self confident. The most amazing part was we didn’t use the word college once. We structured the conversation about the future around sharing gifts and pursuing interests, which was way more meaningful than talking about degrees, salaries, and things they need to collect. We focused on joy and fulfillment because our students already are enough. We guided them to see it and feel it for themselves. 


The Why

We carefully gathered this information from our students so we could create a Homeschool Education Plan with them and their parents. As homeschool students, they have more freedom in their curriculum and we want to make sure that they are prepared for whatever they envision their futures to be. The idea is, learning is a lifelong process and there is no end goal for education, but if our students do want to attend college, trade school, or another certificate program after high school, we want to make sure they have the qualifications needed to apply. We plan to meet with every family to talk about how we can support the student to be able to live the life they envision for themselves after CLA. 

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