Discovering Our Road
By Paul Casey
Roadtrip Nation and its curriculum are all about engaging students with the future and helping them explore the various career pathways open to them. In support of that mission, 4 of us loaded into an RV and have been touring the country since early October, visiting high schools and putting on special assemblies to talk to students about how they want to live their lives.
It’s amazing to think about how far we’ve already come in 4 weeks on the road. And I’m not just talking about physical miles traveled. Sure, our trusty RV (his name is Carl) has taken us a great distance and we’ve watched his odometer crawl towards 100,000 miles as we track our route on the fading map plastered to our little table. But our journey is so much more than small lines drawn on a map and numbers ticking by on the dashboard. Our trip has really been measured in donuts eaten, hikes taken, gas stations visited, pictures snapped, and, most importantly, the amazing number of human connections made and stories collected from people of all walks of life.
This trip wouldn’t be possible without the generosity of AT&T through AT&T Aspire and their desire to help students graduate high school prepared for college and the workforce. We’re reminded of this fact at every high school, at every event, where we and local AT&T employees help students understand that their career options aren’t limited to what’s directly in front of them. From video game marketing to helping athletes recover from injury, to using science to create new flavors of candy, there’s a whole wide world of careers out there that align with students’ passions--careers that don’t have to be just a means to a paycheck, but can be a true expression of what students love.
We haven’t just told students that these careers are out there—we’ve shown them. We’ve brought real people on stage working in wildly different niches and shown students living and breathing evidence that the possibilities are endless. From eclectic community professionals talking about their paths, to local AT&T teams going beyond representing AT&T and its mission to share their own journeys with students, the amazing career and life advice doled out by adults who have been in these students’ shoes is truly inspiring.
It’s this honest and frank exchange of stories that has fueled us on this journey. Whenever the long hours of driving and the countless events start to feel like a job, there’s always one face in the audience, eyes glued to us as we talk about our stories, that we can almost feel our words resonating with. From the student in Sacramento who spent 30 minutes talking to us after an event about her passion for helping others, to the young man in Queens who stopped by right after the assembly to simply shake our hands and tell us he felt inspired, the inquisitive and motivated attitude these young people have after we speak with them has been both humbling and gratifying. You can’t track stuff like that on a map, but these connections are the true foundation of our trip.
On the side of our RV it says, “Define Your Own Road in Life.” Road, with a capital “R.” As we’ve driven across so much of America this fall, and with so much more of the country ahead of us, we’ve come to see firsthand the difference between a road on a map and all the life Roads around us. You can track a road on a map or with GPS. But to discover the Roads, your own or someone else’s, you have to step out beyond those things in life that are easily tracked and calculated, and make a deeper connection.
Roadtrip Nation and AT&T are helping students make those connections, pursue their passions, and start to shape their own Roads going forward. To be able to be a part of that has been awesome. As our Roads continue to press on, we look forward to crossing paths with many more amazing, inspiring people--and those small, yet meaningful moments when two Roads intersect and both depart that much better for it.