This is the last in a series of articles, written by Christina Brown, that show how community members are using the Pathway to Student Success. The Pathway was created and endorsed by local youth and adults as a guide to engage everyone in building strong community by supporting youth on their journey to becoming the next generation of skilled workers, engaged citizens and civic leaders.

By Christina Brown

“The future belongs to a very different kind of person with a very different kind of mind – creators and empathizers, pattern recognizers and meaning makers. These people…will now reap society’s richest rewards and share its greatest joys.”  – Daniel H. Pink, A Whole New Mind

When it comes to the future, the only thing we know is that it will be different.

How to prepare for the future is a goal of the Pathway to Student Success developed by the community-driven Itasca Area Initiative for Student Success Core Team.

The goal:  Every student will develop skills to live, work and thrive in an ever changing world.

Grand Rapids Students

To prepare for success in an ever-changing world, today’s young people learn the 4 C’s – communication, collaboration, creativity and critical thinking – along with the traditional “3 Rs” of reading, writing and arithmetic.

“The skills that young people need – like creativity and innovation – that’s what propels our society forward,” said Sue Akre, Teaching, Learning and Assessment Coordinator for Deer River Schools and a Student Success Core Team member. “The three R’s will always be there, but we also need to include the 4 C’s – communication, collaboration, creativity and critical thinking.  When you look at the top 10 jobs predicted in 2020, everything requires those skills.”

Akre said it is important for educators, employers and community members to be aware of what jobs are coming and what skills are needed so that students can be prepared.

“The curriculum is important, but no curriculum provides everything that the students need to know,” said Akre.  “We want students to see their place in society. We want them to be able to infuse those really important skills of being able to think outside the box and work with other students.”

Akre said learning those skills comes in a variety of experiences, such as when students are included in school district technology planning.

“It allows students to see their value and to help them articulate ideas in diverse environments,” said Akre. “We need to be able to understand perspectives in a global society.”

Joe Silko, executive director of Education Innovation Partners and past member of the Student Success Core Team said the onus is on educators and community members to teach both basic academic skills and soft skills, like independent thinking, collaboration, and communicating.

“We’re not creating date-stamped graduates like cans of tuna where they all look the same and act the same and know the same things,” said Silko.  “People are not like that, and we’ve got to stop trying to do that.  There are basic skills everyone needs, but we also need to help students emphasize their individual strengths.”

Silko said the Pathway goal of preparing students for a changing world is an important one for communities.

“This goal is the whole point of the Pathway,” said Silko. “Student success is vital to our communities, and we will be a stronger community when we can close opportunity gaps and kids see that education is not something to bear, but something that you actively seek.”

Akre said community support is critical to schools.

“We all need to work together to focus on our young people,” said Akre. “They are our future. “That’s why the Pathway to Student Success is so important.  It’s exciting knowing that kids are number one in everyone’s eyes.”