Washougal High students take ‘Brightpath’

Technology helps match teens with possible career paths; WHS teacher earns ‘innovative educator’ award

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Gabby McCormick said she knew she was interested in interior design when she first used the YouScience program known as “Brightpath” during the 2021-22 school year at Washougal High School, but she didn’t realize how much the program would help her gain the practical information she needed to help plan her future career goals.

“I was kind of skeptical because it was something new, and I had never heard of it. We didn’t do it in middle school, and I don’t think we did it freshman year,” McCormick, a senior at Washougal High, said of the YouScience program. “I actually liked it because it taught me a lot about myself and what I can do with my future. I really like knowing what my future could look like. I’ve always known what I want to do, but I think it helped me realize what things I need to work on to be on that path, what things I need to get better at and what steps I need to take.”

McCormick is one of many Washougal High students who have benefited from YouScience, a Utah-based educational technology provider that serves more than 7,000 educational institutions, boasts millions of users nationwide and endeavors to close the “skills and exposure gap crisis” for students and employers with its Brightpath program, a platform that helps match students with educational and career paths.

“Years ago, when we first started working with them, it was called Precision Exams,” said Margaret Rice, the Washougal School District’s director of career and technical education (CTE). “They provided a platform for all 16 career clusters in a variety of different levels of careers to earn industry-recognized certifications. As they grew to recognize their vision, they started acquiring other companies, such as YouScience and most recently Seamless Work Based Learning. They are working with educators, businesses and students to help students meet their pathway goals. It’s a really robust platform.”

Brightpath asks students to participate in a variety of “brain games” designed to help individuals identify their aptitudes, validate their skills and get matched with educational and career pathways.

“There were quite a few of them I had to do,” McCormick said. “They weren’t like ‘test’ tests. They were more of a fun kind of test, where they’re kind of interesting to do so you don’t really get bored, which I liked about it. I could do it for a long period of time and not get bored because it’s always different.”

Each student receives a personalized report that surfaces their aptitudes and matching education pathways, including CTE certifications and careers.

“You can research the career that you want and the steps you need to take,” McCormick said, adding that she learned quite a bit about her chosen career in interior design through the program.

“There are some states that require certificates for interior design,” McCormick said. “You have to go through these tests to be able to be qualified as an interior designer, and I didn’t know that you had to do that.”

The program also connects students with regional employers to gain real-world work experience.

“It’s more in-depth with their aptitudes and skills,” said Washougal High career specialist Kathy Scoba. “A lot of the assessments will say, ‘Would you rather climb a mountain or read a book?’ I don’t think they dive as deep as this platform does.”

Scoba said one student came to her office last year and asked where they could find education courses in genetic counseling.

“I was like, ‘What was that all about?’ She found it on YouScience. She had no idea that it even existed, but found it on YouScience and then did the research,” Scoba said. “I don’t know if she’s still pursuing it, but that was her track when she walked out of here.”

As for McCormick, she said she would recommend YouScience to her peers.

“I know that it’s helped people a lot. And it’s always fun to look at what jobs fit your personality types,” McCormick said. “I think it’s interesting to look at, even if you already know what you’re going to do. I always like to go through and look at what I’m fit for, because there’s always other options. It’s an interesting test because it’s pretty accurate, I would say, looking at my scores. I was like, ‘That makes so much sense.’”

Rice has taken advantage of the program’s growth to strengthen Washougal students’ college and career objectives.

“The first way we used it was through industry certifications, but as it grows, we are leveraging it to help our students actually learn about their aptitudes and what they’re innately good at instead of just looking at their interests,” Rice said. “We’re starting in seventh grade, and they don’t have a lot of experiences, so their interests are really limited. To be able to provide a way to assess what they’re innately good at, like spatial recognition and number recognition and things like that, changes and opens up their minds, and links to careers they may not have ever thought of.”

Rice added that the program helps break stereotypes, too.

“It takes away the traditional pigeon-holing and gender-based (assumptions) because it connects the students with what they really are good at instead of what someone else has told them they should be or shouldn’t be good at, because they’re a girl or a boy or whatever,” Rice said.

Rice and Scoba have worked with YouScience to develop the Brightpath platform and are now reaping the benefits in their work with Washougal students, Rice said.

“We’re now doing education and career planning in (Brightpath,” Rice explained. “They’ve got a resume building opportunity as well as the certifications. What I’m trying to do now — and it’s still new, so we’re in the infancy stage — is build out our work-based learning experiences so that our business community is able to be connected with our students, and then be able to track those experiences so that we can, for lack of a better term, invite students (back) when things come up and reach out ot our business partners.”

Rice said students can find businesses in the region and can access the Brightpath platform for 10 years after graduating from Washougal High School.

Rice wins ‘innovative educator’ award

Rice was recently selected as one of two recipients for the 2023 YouScience Innovative Educator Award, which honors educators who have implemented innovative approaches to empower the next generation of professionals through academic and career exploration.

YouScience also honored Kathy Peres of Blue Valley Schools in Kansas with the award, “which celebrates their outstanding contributions in leading students towards successful career exploration and readiness for the ever-evolving professional landscape,” according to a news release.

“Margaret and Kathy exemplify the essence of the YouScience Innovative Educator Award,” YouScience Chief Executive Officer Edson Barton stated in the news release. “They’ve pioneered innovative approaches in the classroom that empower students for their future pathways. We celebrate their accomplishments and look forward to their continued success.”

Rice said that she was “blown away” when she heard she’d won the award.

“I was pretty flattered that I was even nominated,” she said. “This is the eighth year that we have been working with YouScience, so I’m definitely familiar with the company and the people within (it), and they’ve just continued to grow and get better as a platform for our students.”

The platform fits with Rice’s educational philosophy, which she said is “anchored in a student-centered approach, aimed at developing innovative programs that engage students and propel them toward a successful future.”

“Margaret connects students with business and industry leaders, and she supports all of our students in developing the job readiness skills they need to succeed in the skilled trades, business, military or college,” said Washougal School District Superintendent Mary Templeton. “She is a phenomenal asset to our district, and we are so proud of her and the amazing work she leads.”