BridgeYear connects underserved youth to careers and educational pathways that provide economic stability and independence.
Students need more than just talking, they need doing. Our hands-on Career Test Drive® program immerses students in each career so they can “try on” careers for themselves to determine whether they’re the right fit. Our Advising program works with students one-on-one to connect them to tangible next steps.
Students should be empowered to make their own decisions. Our Career Test Drive® program focuses first on awareness by exposing students to in-demand career options. Our Advising program supports students in their goals, no matter what they are, by providing vetted sources they can use to make informed choices for their future.
Our vision is for all students to graduate high school with a path to gainful employment. However, many assume the only path to success requires a four-year college degree.
BridgeYear exposes students to the numerous career pathways that require less than a four-year degree. These options are high-growth, high-demand careers that many people often overlook. By opening students’ eyes to these opportunities early in middle and high school, we enable students to start earning real money right after high school graduation.
We fundamentally believe there is no “one size fits all” approach to education and that multiple options must be made available for students to make informed decisions about their futures. There are many paths to success, we help students discover them.
The journey to BridgeYear started at Sharpstown High School. As a Biology teacher, Co-Founder Victoria Chen gave students hands-on learning experiences by conducting as many labs as she could. As the college and career counselor, fellow Co-Founder Victoria Doan highlighted different career trajectories by bringing in guest speakers and taking students on multiple site visits. Despite those efforts, they noticed that students still struggled to answer one key question: What do YOU want to be after high school?
Chen and Doan soon realized that students – particularly those who did not wish to attend a four-year college – need a different type of counseling experience to identify their path after high school. Traditional methods of career exploration often fail to engage students and many post-high school pathways are often omitted.
As BridgeYear has grown, so has our approach to ensure youth explore career pathways employers need. Our model is “employer informed, student driven,” meaning we empower youth to make informed decisions about their future using job outlooks straight from our employer partners. We work directly with partner professionals to pinpoint the careers industries are in most need of in real-time. This intel drives what careers we highlight so students know what high-growth, high-demand opportunities they can pursue straight out of high school.
Most recently, BridgeYear has underwent another form of evolution due to COVID-19. As the pandemic forced us to cancel all in-person Career Test Drive® Fairs, BridgeYear quickly pivoted our program to socially-distant Career Test Drive® Kits to continue providing students the postsecondary support they needed, especially amidst an ever-changing postsecondary landscape.
Since its inception in June 2016, BridgeYear has been recognized for its innovation and impact. BridgeYear has been selected for the 4.0 Schools Tiny Fellowship, the Thorne Prize for Social Innovation at Yale University, and the Points of Light Civic Accelerator. BridgeYear’s Co-Founder, Victoria Chen, has also been recognized as the Texas Executive Women’s 2019 Rising Star.