Elena Contreras and Isaac Norman started hosting virtual meetings in December and this month they will start workshops as part of BrightWorks Clubs as well, all to get teens ready for life after high school.
“We’re trying to reach a population of students, starting from middle school through high school, and help prepare them for life after school,” Norman said. “For me, it’s trying to be that person for them that I wish I had when I was you know 14, 15, 16, when I was in school. Just being that person to help start them to think about what they want in life and how to make that work.”
Contreras and Norman are education-to-career navigators through AmeriCorps, who started the club as a spin-off of brightfuturesumpqua.com, a website that helps students navigate opportunities after graduation.
Students can still join the weekly online meetings, where they will receive guidance, resources, skills and connections to help them achieve their educational or career goals.
As of last week, two students were participating in the meetings. Norman pointed out that they were able to retain both students, but that they hope to offer it to more students as well.
There are workshops on how to create a resume and cover letter, how to look for a job, how to do a job interview, but there are also life skills such as paying bills, paying taxes and healthy lifestyle.
“Students really seek out these adulting life skills workshops, because that is something they are interested in learning more about but don’t have access to,” Contreras said. “We really wanted to incorporate that into BrightWorks because knowing what career you want is one thing, but knowing how to have a budget, how to manage your time effectively, those things will really make it so that you are a good career professional. I think that it complements our goal.”
Norman added that those were all useful tools for students to have at their disposal. “I feel what it comes down to is just: the better you’re able to manage yourself, the more enjoyable your life will be.”
BrightWorks Clubs meets every Thursday from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. Students can register for the free club and workshops at www.dcpss.org/brightworksclubs, or visit for more information.
Contreras said the meetings will be recorded, starting in January, so students who do not get a chance to join will be able to watch the meeting at a later time.
According to the Opportunity Index database, 20.2% of people ages 16 to 24 in Douglas County were neither in school nor working in 2019. This is nearly twice the state and national average, which were at 11.6% and 11.5% respectively.
BrightWorks Clubs is also partnering with local school districts and other programs such as Educational Talent Search, Upward Bound and the Boys & Girls Club of the Umpqua Valley, according to a press release.
The club will go until the end of the school year and is funded by the Umpqua Valley Steam Hub through grants from the Meyer Memorial Trust and the State of Oregon/STEM Investment Council.