Cover Story

Mission: To show ninth-graders at Boston's Brighton and West Roxbury high schools the connection between school and success in a future career. If students understand the connection between school and work, "they'll be more inclined to do homework, pay attention in class and see school as a means to an end," explains David L. Blustein, PhD, program co-coordinator.

Why it's needed: "Students from poor and working-class families don't have the same opportunities to learn about themselves and the world of work," says Blustein. "And since they often don't have the chance to go right into a four-year college, they are going to have to make career decisions far sooner than would middle-class and affluent students."

What it does: Once a week, students receive the intervention, which is divided into three modules:

  • Who am I? Students explore their personality, cultural background, family, etc.

  • Connecting school to career. Students identify and research career paths of interest, including training requirements.

  • Identifying resources and barriers. Students interview adults to find out what helped the person succeed and what barriers they faced; they then examine the resources and barriers in their own lives. Their final project is to make a "goal map"--a visual representation of how they will get to their goal of, for example, graduating high school.

Findings: Blustein, Elizabeth Sparks, PhD, and Maureen Kenny, PhD, are conducting preliminary analyses of qualitative and quantitative data. "There's been this kind of myth in psychology that if you're doing a service intervention, you can't do research," says Blustein. "My experience is that community services and research are not mutually exclusive. There's a great potential to do community service while also advancing scholarly objectives."