Lighting The Path

By Tracy DiFilippis

Communities contain a variety of assets, that when recognized and honored, can be the solution to local workforce and economic development issues. The beginning of this uncovering process may initially start as a simple volunteer experience. Today’s youth are hearing a variety of voices regarding current workforce conditions and higher education options. One message worth hearing is the message of ‘hope’. Gallup scientists have learned that hope predicts academic success and graduation better than grades or test scores do (Clifton, 2011). Through volunteerism, many communities are engaging in unique ways to build bridges and forge relationships that would not have been sought in easier times. This is a positive investment that serves to prosper families, communities, and regions. Vocational education and career exploration strengthens community and fosters economic development in the most unconventional ways. This article will profile one region (Ventura County California) wherein volunteerism is bringing students into the marketplace and business into the classroom.


Three Examples of Community Engagement through Volunteering:




An April 2013 article in The Economist cites the importance of “forging closer relationships between companies and schools” as a necessary practice to address the issue of a skills mismatch and the disconnect between education and the labor market.


Community Connecting to Help with Youth Career Development

One of the pillars supporting the ‘Pathways to Prosperity’ research out of the Harvard Graduate School of Education (Symonds, W., Schwartz, R., & Ferguson, R., 2011) is that there would be more of a ‘social compact’ between a community and its young people. The document calls for an expanded role for employers in constructing a more effective network of vocational avenues. Some of the ways that community organizations and employers can help with youth career development are:



Lighting The Path

Imagine all of the growth that comes through service to others. The people we meet along the way light the paths of life and inform career development. I’m sure we can all reflect on the people who have directly or indirectly influenced our vocational direction, creating ‘hope’. Often times these encounters leave lasting impressions that are revealed in the choices we make. The possibilities for volunteering are only a conversation away.




Clifton, J. (2011). The coming jobs war. Gallup Press: New York, NY


Symonds, W., Schwartz, R., & Ferguson, R. (2011). Pathways to prosperity: Meeting the challenge of preparing young Americans for the 21st century. Pathways to Prosperity Project, Harvard Graduate School of Education.


The Economist. April 27, 2013. Generation jobless. Retreived May 18, 2013. From





Tracy DiFilippisTracy DiFilippis, M.S. GCDF, is a Job Developer with PathPoint a non-profit in Ventura County California. She has served a number of years in working with youth transitioning to adulthood and is passionate about empowering people to achieve vocational growth opportunities that bridge social gaps and create inclusive communities. She volunteers with two Chambers of Commerce and the Ventura County Civic Alliance in education, workforce, and economic development areas. She can be reached at http://www.linkedin.com/pub/tracy-difilippis-m-s-cdf/24/85b/aa1 or Tdifilippis@gmail.com

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LARRY MATHENEY on Monday 12/02/2013 at 02:48PM wrote:

What an enlightening article! It is particularly good to see that so many wonderful programs are going on in my Ventura County home. The common threads running through these great examples appears to be (1) a person with vision; and (2) a community that is willing to move outside the comforts of the status quo to join in. Thank you!!!

Tracy DiFilippis on Wednesday 12/04/2013 at 12:13AM wrote:

Indeed Larry! Many thanks to the local the folks making a difference in the lives of young people. So refreshing to co-develop pathways and bring a much needed navigational piece to public education. Much work to do. Onward!

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in the comments shown above are those of the individual comment authors and do not reflect the opinions of this organization.