13-year-old Miguel furiously scribbled small notes, trying to catch every piece of information Jorge shared. Jorge Vieyra, Back2Back Cancun staffer and senior Psychology student at a local university, explained to eager ears the ins and outs of psychology and the careers it can open up. As Jorge unpacked the adventure of the human mind, other volunteers — a doctor, seamstress, chef, and massage therapist – shared their professions throughout the Community Center in Tres Reyes to curious teens like Miguel.
This past summer, Back2Back Cancun hosted a Career Day for teens from numerous families the site serves. The goal was to provide a stepping-stone toward an answer for, “What do you want to do when you grow up?” which can be a difficult question for children who’ve grown up in poverty.
Children growing up in poverty are often asked to grow up quickly. They watch their parent or caregiver hold temporary jobs to meaningfully provide for their family, and often temporarily fill the role of caregiver over the home and younger siblings. This can create irregular school attendance, meaning a lack of space to dwell within to learn, develop an identity, and dream. But hope’s stubbornness isn’t thwarted by socio-economic chasms.
The Career Day helped teens do two things: consider vocational skills and vocational possibilities. The day started with identifying skills and preferences. For a few, it was the first time they had a safe space to ask, “What am I good at?” or “What do I like to do?” — and have an answer. “Self-awareness is important to know how to think about a career,” said Jorge. Knowing who they really are, not who they think they are, helps them hope for more.
In light of their preferences, they saw what possible careers they may want to pursue. The lists surprised them, stretching beyond what their experiences had them convinced of. They visited with various professions, asking questions and hearing from living, breathing examples of “I could be that one day.”
“I learned I liked investigation. I never thought about psychology, but investigating the human mind sounds exciting,” Miguel said. Though it was only a day, his mind brimmed over with new thoughts of opportunity and hope. It’s a hope beyond what he’d like do when he grows up, but the hope of who he’d like to be.