Diocesan News

Harvard Innovators Empower Ozone Park Middle Schoolers

St. Elizabeth Catholic Academy, Ozone Park, teamed with Profilum.org, to show middle-grade students how technological advancements and creative thinking are essential to careers of the future. Photo courtesy St. Elizabeth Catholic Academy

Social media marketing, sustainability management and cloud computing are just some career fields that didn’t exist a decade ago.

According to a recent McKenzie report, 51 percent of job activities can already be automated with “currently demonstrated” technology and this is just the beginning. The labor market may feel miles away for students entering high school today, but when the average college graduate in the U.S. starts his or her career with $37K in debt, the choices these students make in school matter.

That is why Jeanne Shannon, the principal of St. Elizabeth Catholic Academy in Ozone Park, teamed up with Profilum.org, a data-driven career counseling service based in Harvard Innovation Labs, to host a “Career Exploration Day.”

Ninety middle-grade students benefited from going through a talent assessment and received personalized recommendations. Students participated in an interactive “job morph” game during which they presented their vision of the future for various career fields, including finance, medicine and architecture.

“It is important to engage students in thinking about the future,” said Anna Shay, CEO of Profilum and current student at Harvard Graduate School of Education. “By equipping them with necessary skills and information, we help to make meaningful connections between education and future pathways.”

Dillon, an eighth grader said, “My group and I thought that if we don’t embrace the future, we’ll fall behind and have difficulty succeeding.”

Students had the chance to learn how technological advancements drive the demand for new skills, and used creative thinking to construct careers of the future.

“Technology can play a big role in providing access to relevant data whilst taking into account individual interests and motivational structures. That is definitely something we are excited to explore and bring into classrooms,” Shay added.

Emily, also an eighth grader, said, “My group and I felt that Profilum gave us a chance to realize how important our generation is to the future, and how we must be creative in order to succeed.”

Over the past few years college and career readiness has been high on the academy’s agenda. Last fall, St. Elizabeth’s hosted a Career Day featuring leading companies and the non-profit Middy Fund to work weekly on students’ social ventures and in the process, develop soft-career skills.