Pathways to Hope


From the Marshall Memo #436

“Many young people dream the American dream, believe it can be achieved, and haven’t a clue how to make it a reality,” says Shane Lopez, who runs the Gallup Student Poll, in this Kappan article. “Students generally are confident. They think ‘I can do anything!’… But, where there is a will, there is not always a way. Students often lack strategies to reach the big goals such as graduation and employment.” For example, 92% of students strongly believe they will graduate from high school, but only 62% are confident they can get good grades and only 35% believe they can find ways around problems that will arise in life. 

What they lack, says Lopez, is the ability to devise multiple routes to a goal, problem-solve, be creative, and constantly experiment and innovate – skills that are vital to success in the 21st century. His favorite idea for developing these skills and bridging the gulf between noble aspirations and a better future is the Hope Camera Project, which was implemented by school counselor Jennifer Magnuson-Stressman with fifth and sixth graders in Omaha, Nebraska. Each student was given a disposable camera and asked to take photos that showed hope in their lives. Students then chose their best photo, matted and framed it, and wrote a brief essay telling the story behind the photo. Magnuson-Stressman edited the essays and students displayed their work for parents, friends, educators, and community members in the school gym. “I like the way they are learning to see the future,” said one father. “Some of them touch me deeply.” 

A variation on this project might be getting students to take photos of people who love their jobs, teaching students the pathways people take to a particular career.

Essential to the success of this kind of project is funding – Lopez estimates $30 per child – and a caring adult who can steer students through the ups and downs of the process. “So, with the help of a caring, hopeful adult and $1,000, a classroom of students could learn how to create pathways and share hope with dozens of friends and family.” 

“The How of Hope” by Shane Lopez in Phi Delta Kappan, May 2012 (Vol. 93, #8, p. 72-73), http://www.kappanmagazine.org; Lopez is at shane@strengths.org


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