U ROC Program Helps Undecided Young Adults Find a Clear Path to Their Future

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U-ROC Leadership Steering Committee members
Image via U-ROC Leadership Gap Yeear Program
U-ROC Leadership Steering Committee members (from left), Donna Northern, Boys & Girls Club of Chester; Dana Riker Jackson, Riker Opportunity Institute; Dane Yoder, Ernst & Young LLP; John Wilson, Drexel University; and Robert Givens, RG 360 Consulting

Some of us have known since childhood what we wanted to do “when we grow up” but for many others the path after high school is less certain.

Now there’s a program that can help young adults who aren’t ready or sure about college, or who haven’t settled on a career.

The Gap Year

The gap year has traditionally been a time when a student right out of high school chooses to travel or work before deciding his or her next step in life.

The gap year can be a smart choice for graduates who are unsure about their future college or training program studies.

The U-ROC Leadership Gap Year Program offers young adults, 18–24, the opportunity to have a clearer vision of their path before they begin college while learning life and leadership skills with a paid internship.

First Class

The Riker Opportunity Institute (ROI) graduated its first class in its U-ROC Leadership Gap Year program this past June.

The four students who participated were unsure what they wanted to do after graduating high school. Now, after completing the 28-week pilot program, they are either enrolled in college or have found fulfilling full-time jobs. This is the ultimate goal and purpose of the U-ROC Leadership Gap Year program.

The participants felt better prepared and more confident to take the next steps toward their future goals.

Miyanna Whittington, who started a program in October in Music Production at Full Sail University, said, “I really didn’t know what I wanted to do or how to chase a dream before coming to U-ROC. Now, I have leadership skills and know how to be dynamic in going after my dreams.”

After doing a U-ROC Leadership internship at the X-treme Learning Center at the Montgomery County OIC, Lora Gregory was able to obtain full-time, self-sustaining employment working in the childcare field that she loves.

“I didn’t really have an idea about what kind of career I wanted to have, but thanks to U-ROC, I not only learned skills that will help me in the workplace, but I got a job doing what I love.”

You can hear about their positive experiences and outcomes in this video.

“We hope when they complete the program they either have a clear pathway to what they need for education and have enrolled in higher ed, and/or have a full-time sustainable, living wage job so they can support themselves and live independently,” says ROI owner and U-ROC Leadership founder Dana Riker Jackson.

Classes took place in person at the Montgomery County Opportunities Industrialization Center in downtown Norristown.  There is a tuition fee for the program and scholarships are available.

Riker Jackson said her program not only helps young adults 18 to 24  figure out their education and career plans, it also benefits employers who have been struggling to find qualified job candidates during labor shortages and diversify their work force.

How It All Started

Riker Jackson was inspired to create the program out of her own life experience.

“I was one of those students who graduated from high school and was not given many choices.”

She ended up as a dental hygienist but was unhappy with her decision.

“It took me almost 30 to 40 years to figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up,” she says.

Riker Jackson started her own talent leadership development consulting business in 1997, and the most common feedback Clients told her was if they had the information sooner that ROI teaches, they might have made different choices in their lives, and so, the U-ROC Leadership™ Gap Year program was born.

Character Building

Beyond offering career and life skills like financial literacy, the program also helps young adults develop confidence and the essential people skills they need to open doors of opportunities—skills like integrity, trust, motivation, persistence, problem-solving, relationship-building, leadership, teamwork and communication.

“We believe every human being deserves the opportunity to be the leaders of their lives, achieve their dreams and live a quality life. At the same time, our employer partners are receiving well-trained, vetted interns who may transition to part or full-time employees,” Riker Jackson says.

Looking Ahead

Classes are planned for Fall 2023. The goal is to have 20 students. Classes are small because they are intensely interactive, Riker Jackson says.

The hope is to eventually offer the program throughout the region at easily accessible locations.

Applications are now being accepted online.

For more information, email Dana Riker Jackson at consultdana@rikeropportunityinstitute.com or call or text 610.742.5930.

The Lincoln Center for Family and Youth supports the Riker Opportunity Institute and the U-ROC Leadership™ Gap Year Program.

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