By Taylor Jones
ATLANTA— Alahji Barry, an 8th grade student at Atlanta Public Schools’ Ralph J. Bunche Middle School, will receive hands-on experience with her dream job as a neurosurgeon, thanks to the Office Depot Foundation’s Career Exploration Program and the USA TODAY Charitable Foundation’s Dream UP! Middle School Essay Challenge. Barry is one of five students out of 30,000 middle school students chosen from across the country to shadow a professional in the field of their choice through hands-on mentoring experiences. The student winners were announced March 17.
The Dream UP! Essay Challenge attracted 280 educators in 30 states—the program’s largest number of teachers to participate in a single semester since its start in 2009. Previous winners of this essay challenge have experienced diverse career opportunities such as journalism, aerospace engineering and automobile design.
“We created the Dream UP! Program to address the concern that children are dropping out of school at younger ages. What used to be a problem that occurred almost exclusively in high school has moved into middle school,” says Office Depot Foundation President Mary Wong. “Our premise is that if we can encourage middle school students to begin thinking about careers and exploring possibilities about the world of opportunities that exist for them in the future, then it will inspire them to stay in school and work toward their goals.”
Through the Dream UP! Career Exploration program, students study current workplace trends, while analyzing the latest industry news from USA TODAY to identify career opportunities and understand professional requirements. Also, students will research several career options and develop a career portfolio.
About Atlanta Public Schools
Atlanta Public Schools is one of the largest school districts in the state of Georgia, serving approximately 50,000 students across 106 learning sites. The district is organized into nine K-12 clusters with 87 schools, 17 charter schools and two citywide single-gender academies, where students are offered rigorous instructional programs that foster success in school and life. For more information, visit www.atlantapublicschools.us.
About the Office Depot Foundation
The Office Depot Foundation is an independent foundation − tax exempt under IRC Sec. 501(c)(3) − that serves as the independent charitable giving arm of Office Depot, Inc. In keeping with its mission, Listen Learn Care®, the Foundation supports a variety of programs that give children tools to succeed in school and in life; build the capacity of non-profit organizations through collaboration and innovation; and help communities prepare for disasters, as well as recovering and rebuilding afterwards. For more information, visit www.officedepotfoundation.org.
About USA TODAY Charitable Foundation
USA TODAY Charitable Foundation, a 501(c)(3) organization, supports and builds alliances that enhance innovative instructional programs and community outreach by providing the resources to promote opportunities and inspire all. It welcomes participation in efforts to engage, enlighten and inspire today’s students and educators by opening their classrooms to the real world. The Foundation seeks funding from other foundations, private companies and organizations to help provide educational programs for elementary, secondary schools, community colleges and/or programs in specific disciplines or curriculum areas. Staff works with interested parties to collaborate on the creation of an educational program that meets the mission and goals for respective companies or organizations. For more information, visit www.usatodaycharitablefoundation.org.