Published: February 17, 2021  |  

Last year, we kicked off a partnership with Couragion, a locally owned software company working to inspire underrepresented students to pursue science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) careers. This women-led company uses an online platform to provide inclusive, work-based learning experiences that introduce students to jobs of the future.

The Couragion pilot program

We proposed a pilot program to the Boulder Valley School District (BVSD) to implement Couragion in order to meet the district’s career and technical objectives. Our goal was to see if this new software could more precisely align with these objectives than the Career Pathways program, an in-house mentorship program helping elementary students explore careers. Working with Arlie Huffman, Director of CTE Education for BVSD, and Katie Romero, Director of Student Support for BVSD, we were able to launch the program in the fall of 2020.

Who participated in the pilot

We targeted five BVSD middle schools for the Couragion pilot program to reach a cross-section of schools representing various geographies, academic environments, and socioeconomic demographics. Their school counselors received training in September 2020, and then their students received access to the platform for eight weeks. 

4,580 career “quests” were completed by students throughout the program, with each student completing an average of 4.1 quests. 

  • Participation rates ranged from 29-39% with 6th graders using the software the most
  • Female students participated at a higher rate (49%) than male students (46%)
  • 33% of students participants were students of color (a population that comprises 19.8% of the overall BVSD student population)

Initial findings

Students were surveyed each time they used Couragion, and the program showed an increased knowledge of STEM careers and school resources. The pilot results include:

  • 14% increase in course registration knowledge related to the student’s interested career path
  • 2-7% increase in students’ intent to pursue a STEM career
  • 42% of students intended to sign up for a STEM-related course or activity
  • 78% of students planned to work harder in their STEM courses

Lessons learned

The student participants demonstrated self-awareness, critical thinking and a broadened knowledge of career possibilities:

  • “I love designing things, and I never thought there was a job like this.”
    female, student of color, grade 7, graphic designer

  • “I just don’t really want to be in the engineer part. I want to lean more towards the doctor and medical side.”
    female, white, grade 8, cancer researcher

  • “I think it would be fun to make new flavors, but having to do the paper work and determining if the product was good would be hard.”
    male, white, grade 7, food scientist

  • “I love jobs that have to do with facts, statistics and math. I don’t mind taking lots of hard classes, as long as it pays off in the future. I love flexible hours and it sounds great to have lunch/meet up with my clients!”
    female, white, grade 7, financial advisor

  • “I think this quest was not for me. I do not like to be on the screen especially because this quest is being on the computer for 10 hours plus. I can barely do it for the whole school day.”
    female, student of color, grade 7, cyber security manager

  • “My head is already bursting with ideas!”
    male, student of color, grade 6, game developer

Some students also focused on a specific career goal:

  • “A few of my career goals are to travel the world and see new cultures, people, and food. Another one is to have a flexible time schedule. My main career goal is to have a job within the skincare/medical industry including doing research.”
    female, student of color, grade 8

  • “I would like to be an architect when I grow up. And if I am that when I grow up, I will have to get better at my math.”
    male, student of color, grade 7

What’s Next

The goals of this pilot program extend beyond career exposure to impact on course selection and the perception of how STEM classes can lead to careers. With our partners at BVSD, we are now evaluating next steps to determine if we should continue to offer Couragion to BVSD middle schoolers in the 21-22 school year and how we might deploy it most successfully in the future.

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