American Student Assistance (ASA)

Last Updated: Spring 2023

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American Student Assistance (ASA) is a national non-profit organization that has been working to pioneer solutions to help students for more than 60 years. Since 2018, ASA has been building a new digital ecosystem of platforms and partners to transform the school-to-work journey for K-12 children in America, starting in middle school.

ASA research shows that middle school is the prime time to begin engaging young people in career readiness learning before high school when student stressors, peer pressures and time crunches reach new heights. Middle schoolers are also just learning how to explore their individual identities, which makes this time critical to begin thinking about potential education-to-career pathways. This includes equitable access to work-based learning experiences like internships, apprenticeships, and job shadowing.

ASA works toward work-based learning experiences for middle school students that focus on building community for each young person. Introducing kids earlier on to caring adults who can guide them on their paths will eventually lead to a sense of “empowered autonomy” in which they feel confident in making their own decisions because of the support and validation they’ve received from the adults around them.

ASA also works to shatter the notion that middle school is too early to introduce work-based learning. The importance of students being able to get out of the building and explore in a hands-on environment can benefit their overall engagement in the work they’re doing. Middle-grades students, particularly in public schools in underserved communities, have become disenfranchised and disengaged—work-based learning experiences provide these kids a sense of purpose and belonging that tells them they are worthy of trying this.

The future of work-based learning for middle school students requires a hybrid approach of in-person learning and technology solutions, driven by new platforms and structural innovations. It also requires work with employers—helping students look for opportunities in their communities.

Resources:  ASA provides a newsletter on trends and insights in career readiness learning: PivotED

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