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Tess Stewart

Tess Stewart, '21

The value and validity of nontraditional education paths

Last summer, I had the pleasure of working as an admissions and recruitment intern at Year Up, an education nonprofit that aims to take young adults ages 18 to 24 from minimum-wage jobs to well-paying careers in just one year. Year Up's program is split into two phases. The first phase, learning and development, focuses on teaching these young professionals the necessary skills to succeed in the modern workforce. During the next six months, students are placed at an internship to gain real-world working experience.

As part of the admissions and recruitment team, I helped build the next class of Year Up students. By far, my favorite part of the job was conducting admissions interviews. I would spend about an hour talking individually with young adults from all walks of life about their experiences, passions, and goals. I was exposed to such a breadth of wonderful people who were motivated to kickstart their professional careers. 

Additionally, this summer was especially unique because it opened my eyes to the variety of paths to success that exist. I am extremely lucky to attend an institution such as Stanford, but my internship helped me realize that getting a college degree is by no means the only way to achieve one's goals. Through my work at Year Up, I was able to work with incredibly smart young adults who were in the process of following an untraditional path toward their goals. Whether deciding to restart their education after having their second child or deciding that a string of minimum-wage jobs just was not cutting it anymore, these young adults approached Year Up with the passion and drive to reach their dream job.

As an intern, I was able to witness the immense impact Year Up has on the lives of its students. Not only does Year Up provide students with a stable support system, career advice, and tangible tools to use in the workforce, but this organization also teaches students to have confidence in themselves and their value in the professional world. Furthermore, it forced me to reflect on my own time at Stanford. I began thinking critically about my own learning, questioning how successfully I was utilizing my time at Stanford to reach my goals. Working at Year Up greatly broadened my view about what it means to be a young professional and how we can support individuals who may have untraditional paths, so that, regardless of background, students can reach their full potential.

Tess Stewart, ’21 (Symbolic Systems), completed a Cardinal Quarter as part of the admissions and recruitment team at Year Up, a year-long program that supports young professionals in pursuit of meaningful and sustainable careers.
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