Workshop Executive Summary
Now For Next Workshop Executive Summary
The Now for Next Workshop was organized in partnership between the Alaska Association of School Boards (AASB) and the Alaska Postsecondary Access & Completion Network (AlaskaCAN). Both organizations, through their shared support and aligned efforts, planned the Now for Next Workshop. The goal for this workshop was to identify what we can do NOW to help students prepare for what’s NEXT in order to turn the curve on Alaska’s postsecondary outcomes from last to best.
The Now for Next workshop participants recognized that current practices are not yielding the results that our students – and our State – need in order to thrive. The recommendations center on investing more, starting earlier, building on relationships, and making a shift in the way we, collectively, approach education scenarios including:
- Shift from: What do you want to do?
- Shift to: Who do you want to be and where do you want to live?
- Shift from: There are lots of resources you can access.
- Shift to: Let me help you find the right resource and develop the skills to advocate for yourself.
- Shift from: College is the path to a higher paycheck.
- Shift to: Choosing a path that is right for you will likely require some sort of training after high school.
- Shift from: How much will you get paid?
- Shift to: How will this help you contribute to your family and community?
Participants in the Now for Next Workshop included Alaska school Boards members, secondary education personnel, postsecondary institutions, education foundations, community/regional organizations and corporations, the Alaska Departments of Labor, Health, Education and Early Development, and the Alaska Commission on Postsecondary Education, and other education stakeholders. Over 100 attendees joined the Now for Next Workshop.
Now for Next created space for a variety of collaborative experiences for attendees. The workshop began with an insightful panel in which Alaska Native panelists shared their experiences around Academic Preparation, Navigation Skills, and Cultural Identity. Panelists discussed their shared experience that while progress has been made in postsecondary education to intentionally create a sense of belonging, there are still many gaps that need to be addressed. And that challenges continue to exist around knowing how and where to find support.
After the panel discussion, Now for Next identified a series of “How can we…?” questions linked to seven topics established as areas of focus to effect a Now for Next change:
- Identities & Motivation
- Families & Communication
- Navigation & Future Planning
- Community Supports
- Sense of Belonging
Once small groups rotated through this brainstorming activity, they pivoted to a working lunch in which attendees participated in an activity to acknowledge ways in which establishing Regional Networks could provide a new support system within their shared regional experiences.
The last component of Now for Next was to take a deep dive into creating actionable priorities stemming from the morning session focused around the seven topics. Using a dynamic impact grid method, groups worked on a theme-focused question and then were met with the strategic question, “What can we do together that will help create this future?”.
Together, through this activity, workgroups created seven Recommended Actions in support of the Now for Next goal: what we can do NOW to help students prepare for what’s NEXT in order to turn the curve on Alaska’s postsecondary outcomes from last to best.
Throughout the course of the Now for Next Workshop’s collaborative engagement opportunities, 10 Insights emerged that support and helped develop resulting Workshop Recommendations. Insights included the importance of: celebrating and building upon success; starting early (middle school) & checking-in often with students; tapping into intrinsic motivation by linking to student’s values & purpose; building upon student’s/family’s/community’s long history of preparing for the future; valuing and celebrating ALL paths; human connections as essential conduits; enlisting a village of mentors, students and organizations; acknowledging and incorporating Alaska Native history and traditions; offering more incremental experiences to bridge next steps in students’ path; and filling information gaps.
The following recommendations were identified by work groups as ways that Alaskans – school boards, districts, education stakeholder organizations, etc. can address and improve educational outcomes for Alaskans. Each recommended action is connected to the seven overarching threads of the workshop.
- Identity and Motivation: Foster motivation and life skills by embedding culturally affirming social & emotional learning in all curricula. Provide culturally responsive training for all staff (school, higher ed, Department of Labor, etc).
- Families and Communities: Identify key timelines and milestones for families; build on parent expertise & storytelling & create toolkits for wide distribution and engagement.
- Preparation: Start in middle school with community-connected events and experiences.
- Costs: Host financial literacy community nights starting with the basics for younger children/families (i.e. opening a bank account). Make the FAFSA easier to access/complete.
- Navigation: Fund career guides to assist students and families with plans for their future (Personal Learning & Career Plans/PLCPs) linked to their goals and values as well as tactical steps like the FAFSA.
- Community Supports: Collect and share student stories of “success” and “purpose” to inform others engaging with students and planning programs and services. (Leading to work on a community mentorship platform to match students and mentors in local communities.)
- Sense of Belonging: Foster mentorship and cohorts on campus by inventorying and building on what is working.
Call to Action
Equipped with actionable priorities, Now for Next attendees will work with local and statewide colleagues to take the steps identified above. These seven priorities involve collaboration, coordination, financial support, and cohesive leadership to effect positive and meaningful changes for Alaskans.