Unveiling passion and purpose during week one of Summer Discovery

Week one of the Readiness Institute Summer Discovery set the stage for a transformative journey of discovering passion and purpose. After an inspiring whole-group kickoff on Monday with guest speakers and new connections, Pittsburgh and Central PA learners split off into their cohorts for the remainder of the week for a blend of on-site activities, off-site trips, and virtual reflection. The classrooms, busses, and conversations brimmed with excitement and anticipation as they explored not just what they want to do in the future, but who they aspire to become in their communities and careers.

Each week, programming and insights will align with a community readiness skill and a future career pathway to help learners get a better sense of who they want to become and how they can get there. This week, they dove into social-emotional learning and got a closer look at careers in education and counseling.

Pittsburgh Rotation

A group of students sits in a circle

In Pittsburgh, on-site activities took place in the classroom of the Franco Harris Pittsburgh Center at Penn State and kicked off with some team building and ice-breaker activities to help learners get to know each other and create a fun and collaborative environment.

Learners worked on the first of many SOLE (Self-Organized Learning Environments) activities planned for this summer, getting into groups to research a topic and present to the rest of the cohort. This week, they responded to the prompt: “What steps and resources are necessary to comprehensively prepare every student for success in their personal, professional, and civic lives?” Some of their presentations included:  

  • support systems
  • school resources
  • socialization
  • early exposure to career preparation
  • experiential learning

In the morning, learners welcomed guest speaker Nayli Russo-Long (vice president of people and strategy at the Pittsburgh Pirates) to share her personal and professional pathway and talk about passion. She had students complete the Six Types of Genius assessment and discussed their results and ways to tap into their unique skills and dreams.

“I’ve never been the smartest person in the room. I don’t want to be. But I will always be the most passionate person in the room.” — Nayli

In the afternoon, Pittsburgh learners got to participate in a wellness workshop with TEAMology, led by CEO Linsey Covert. The conversation centered around social-emotional learning, including the CASEL Competencies (self awareness, self management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making). Learners had an honest conversation about mental health and how their schools and environments are equipped to respond to their mental health needs. They also got to flex their art skills and paint rocks!

Students pose with a statue of Big Bird from Sesame StreetOn off-site days, Pittsburgh learners traveled to:

  • WQED (PBS member television and radio station) to tour editing and film studios, chat with radio hosts of 98.3FM and get a look at the music archive
  • UpStreet (a teen mental health service that offers free counseling to anyone from ages 12 to 22) to talk about youth mental health and mentoring, set their own SMART goals, and do an activity to learn how they’re connected with each other

“There’s such a stigma around mental health. Talking about mental health more breaks that stigma.” — Snigdha, Pittsburgh learner

“I feel more comfortable asking for help if I need it.” — Kelsey, Pittsburgh learner

Central Pennsylvania Rotation

A teacher reads to a small group of young students who are gathered around her on a carpet

Learners in Central PA split into two cohorts, one from Bedford/Blair counties and one from Cambria/Somerset counties.

For their off-site trips, the Cambria/Somerset cohort visited:  

  • The Learning Lamp (a nonprofit offering child care, preschool, and school-age programs) to visit the infant room and interact with kids, getting a deeper look at what it takes to be a child-care provider
  • University of Pittsburgh Johnstown to do a campus tour and talk to college representatives about admissions and college life

On Bedford/Blair’s off-site day, learners visited:  

  • Harbor House Preschool and Kindergarten to help with activities, including working with older kids to make solar ovens and s’mores, and then reading and coloring with younger students
  • Penn Highlands Community College to tour the college building and classrooms for a look at a different learning environment

“I appreciated being able to work in groups that came together to overcome problems.” — Jude, Central PA learner

 “I had a good time seeing how different age groups learn and interpret the world.” — Central PA learner

For their on-site activities, learners in both Central PA cohorts joined together for a whole-group activity exploring the essential skills needed to be successful when transitioning from high school to postsecondary life. They also welcomed leaders from the Penn State Linguistics Diversity program for a workshop on teamwork, active communication, and problem-solving with real world solutions.

Students pose outside on patio furniture

Virtual Day

Each week, learners take time to slow down for a full virtual day from home. They first complete individual activities in their own time then log in for a virtual zoom session in the afternoon with their cohorts. Each week they’ll work on:

  • Roadtrip Nation: An online self-discovery course aimed to help learners rethink their ideas about work and what a career can truly be. They can explore their interests and get connected to careers they may not have considered, and start to define their own road forward.
  • Readiness discovery pathways: Over the course of the summer, learners will create their own personal narrative that can be used to help formulate their individual future roadmap. They’ll respond to questions like, “Who am I? Who do I want to become? How do I get there? How will I continue to learn? How will I give back to my community?”
  • Off-site reflections: Each week, learners will reflect on their recent off-site trips, including where they went, what they learned, if they could see themselves in that career, and any questions they had or further info they’d like to know.

It was a great week with new friendships, some new skills and knowledge, and positive momentum for the next several weeks. Next week, learners will dive into community readiness using inclusive technologies and explore future career pathways in science and technology.

Photo Galleries


Summer Discovery 2024 - Week One in Pittsburgh

Central PA

Summer Discovery 2024 - Week One in Central PA