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It takes a community: Students navigate their path to success

December 13, 2022

Pathway to Success students during the first week of their internship with Johnson & Johnson.

Pathway to Success students during the first week of their internship with Johnson & Johnson. Photo credit: Pathway to Success program/FHI 360

Young people who are the first in their families to attend college can face a mountain of academic, financial, psychological and social obstacles on their path to success. Nearly one-third of first-generation college students leave school within their first three years, and only 27% typically graduate on time.

Through the Bridge to Employment (BTE) program, FHI 360 has partnered with Johnson & Johnson (J&J) to support young people from underserved communities to enroll in higher education, with a focus on increasing the number of young people who pursue a degree or certificate in science, technology, engineering, math, manufacturing or design (STEM2D).

To further help BTE students navigate the transition from high school to college, and then from college to career, J&J and FHI 360 created the Pathway to Success (Pathways) program.

"In essence, the BTE model helps youth get to college, while the Pathways model helps youth get through college,” says Tiffany Nesbey, technical officer for the Pathway to Success program.

Nearly three-quarters of students in the first Pathways cohort graduated from college within four years and have successfully transitioned to full-time work or graduate school. Since 2018, 80% of the 69 Pathways students have been first-generation college students, and more than half have chosen to major in STEM2D fields.

Below, meet some of the young leaders who found the support to pursue their own paths and achieve their goals through these programs.

Meet Abdul Abdulrahman, software engineer

Abdul Abdulrahman, software engineerAbdul graduated in May 2021 from Rutgers University with a bachelor’s degree in computer science. Due to his success in the program, Abdul received multiple competing job offers, including from Johnson & Johnson. Abdul has been employed as a computer software engineer since graduation.

“One of my favorite experiences within the Pathway to Success program was my first internship [of two] with Johnson & Johnson,” says Abdul, who worked as an IT prototyper. Pathways students are eligible for internships with J&J to gain hands-on learning experience outside of the classroom; they also have access to year-round support through FHI 360, including academic advising, job application and resume review, and networking and career counseling.

“With all the mentors I had to support me through the Pathways program and resources on the internet, I was able to learn production-level development within the first two weeks," Abdul says.

Abdul also built relationships with other interns and took advantage of networking opportunities.

“My initial understanding of the [Pathways] program was that we would have workshops to learn more about working in a corporate environment and financial responsibility,” he says. “But I could tell within a month of joining the program that it was more like joining a community.”

Meet Brandon Quinones, economics student

Brandon Quinones, economics studentBrandon is a BTE alumnus from Bound Brook, New Jersey. He is currently participating in Pathways and earning his bachelor’s degree at Rutgers University.

Brandon had always worried about how he would pay for college. His BTE and Pathways mentors taught him how to engage with financial aid offices, search for scholarships and create a strong resume and cover letter to help him stand out when applying for aid. These are just some of the skills that students gain through virtual and in-person seminars; they also learn how to interview well, prepare for college, build a professional portfolio, cope with stress and protect their mental health.

At the weeklong Pathways pre-college visit, Brandon decided what he wanted to study: economics, with a focus on supply chain. And when it was time to interview for his first J&J internship, his Pathways cohort helped him prepare.

“During my interview, I felt comfortable and confident. I was able to ask good questions and actually have a great conversation,” he says. “Without [Pathways] I do not believe I would have been able to have the same kind of interview, or even be in this position. My internship opened many doors for my future.”

Meet Miracle Moore, world languages and linguistics student

Miracle Moore, world languages and linguistics studentMiracle is the first in their family to attend college; they major in world languages and linguistics at The College of New Jersey. They hope to become a speech pathologist.

“Pathway to Success has helped me realize the most viable routes to enter an otherwise broad and confusing field like speech pathology,” they say. “It was pretty difficult to envision myself eventually joining a career field that’s not represented in my community.”

For Miracle, Pathways workshops have opened doors. Their mentors have connected them to practicing speech pathologists, which has boosted their confidence in their career goals and knowledge of the options and opportunities available to them.

“My favorite thing about the program is that it doesn’t teach us how to change ourselves in order to become a professional, but rather how to take who we already are and apply it to the things we want — to envision ourselves achieving our goals.”

While the Pathway to Success program is still small, it has had a big impact on the students who have participated so far. Recognizing that impact, FHI 360 & Johnson & Johnson are working to expand the Pathways model to include an international focus.

The Pathways program continues to show that all students have what it takes to succeed. With personalized guidance and mentorships that provide young people with a family of support beyond their home, students can — and do — find their pathways to success.