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From high school to work

Recent graduates become young professionals while earning a college degree

High school graduation is typically a moment of celebration and looking ahead to a future that includes a college degree. But for some, the moment presents a difficult choice: pursue a college education—often taking on financial and personal hardships—or enter the workforce, earning wages that can help support family members or other economic realities.

Believing that no one should have to make that choice, Strategic Education Inc., (Strayer University’s parent organization) launched High School to Work (HS2W), a program that gives rising high school graduates in underserved communities an opportunity to earn an associate degree at no cost, while gaining paid work experience for a 12-month period.

The first cohort of 30 students started in January 2020, choosing from one of four online degree offerings. While they study, the students are able to earn wages at one of several employers who have partnered with HS2W, gaining work experience in a field that is relevant to their chosen degree pathway.

Kristina Griffin, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, completed her Strayer University bachelor’s degree in 1998. She went on to use the knowledge acquired from her business degree to launch Pinnacle HR Consulting, based in Maryland. Today, Kristina’s company is a HS2W program partner, offering students employment at her firm.

“I continue to use the knowledge and skills I gained while at Strayer to this day,” says Kristina. “So it was important to me to ‘pay it forward.’ As employers, it’s our responsibility to create pathways for young professionals. Inviting them in, teaching and training them on best practices, is an important learning tool opportunity that sets both the employer and intern up for success.”

During their time at Pinnacle, Kristina hopes students will build confidence, develop tangible skills and learn about business in a professional setting. “When I first started my career, I didn’t have an internship or opportunity like this,” she reflects. “My goal is to encourage students to adapt course room lessons to the real world and ease their transition from one to another.”

Through partnerships like this, HS2W aims to introduce students to a variety of career paths and diverse businesses so they can develop a broad perspective of the workforce while learning important skills in the classroom.

If you own a business or want your employer to explore a partnership with HS2W, please contact Jackie Hartwig, [email protected].