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Imagining the future may be more important than analyzing the past.



Getting Ready to Guide

The lesson plans that explore postsecondary future selves will not be like other college and career lessons your students have experienced. Many exercises focus on college-going interventions, and college and career readiness, but most offer minimal attention to youths’ motivations, or to their expectations to attain a certain life condition. 


It is essential that an educator have the right tools and mindset to have a healthy discussion. Whether done well or not, the lesson is likely to have a lasting impact.

Before You Begin:

Sequencing & Timing

Each lesson may be used as an independent module, but the program was designed to be sequential, complementary, and delivered with no more than a few weeks between each lesson. The ideal order would be:

  1. Vision

  2. Influences

  3. Alignment


The ideal timing/age for this content is at the end of a students' 9th grade year, or early in 10th grade (ages 14-16). Conduct the lessons too early, and students may not have been exposed to foundational college and career discussions that allow them to imagine basic options. Wait too long, and you will miss an important opportunity to influence course-taking and extracurricular participation that can support students' goals. 

Who will lead the discussion?

Trust is key to a student’s experience of this content. A prior, trusting relationship with the educator or mentor who presents the material will allow students to trust that they are not being judged, and believe that it is a safe space for them to dream big. Carefully select the person who will represent this content and guide the thinking in your classroom/program; humbly recognize that the best choice may not be you.

The Role of Prompting

Prompting (providing examples and for-instances) is a natural part of teaching—especially for abstract concepts such as ‘joy’, ‘fulfillment’, or ‘being somebody’. When offering examples, be sure to present a balance of traditional and nontraditional paths and lifestyles. Resist the tendency to default to familiar notions of "the American Dream" that may not be relatable, or desired, by the students in front of you. Know that the more specific your examples are, the more you may (unintentionally) establish limits, judgments, or standards for the dreams of your students. Review our gallery of voices to get ideas and examples you can offer outside of your own life experience or lens.

Consider inviting people in trusted positions in students' lives to lead the discussion:

  • Faith leaders

  • Guidance counselors

  • Mentors

  • Youth group leaders

  • Community members (business owners, community organizers)

  • Sports coaches or extracurricular program leaders

The Right Mindset

To serve students better and more completely, approach your classroom conversations with:

An alignment mindset.

A postsecondary future self exploration works to create a series of goals or pursuits that reasonably align with each other, such as pursuing college in an effort to obtain a choice career that supports a desired life condition. Make sure that your conversations venture into all three domains, to emphasize the importance of all three in a person’s fully actualized life. 


Remember also that as educators, we aren’t in the business of limiting dreams. If your students’ three Cs are not aligned, resist the urge to say “That’s not realistic.” Instead, help students conduct further research themselves in order to understand their college, career, or condition desires more, and bring them into focus. There are no wrong answers in an imaginative exercise. More information will be their ally in creating aligned ambitions.

Aware of influences.

Black and Latinx students’ future aspirations are shaped by many influences, which will be explored in the Influences lesson plan. Some influences may empower, drive, or motivate their goal-setting and attainment; others may serve as barriers to imagining and actualizing a future without limits. Adolescent boys often depend on their families to help maneuver and overcome those barriers; listen for students mentioning their families' wishes as they articulate their own.

Awareness of racial experiences.

Experiences with ethnoracial and class subjugation may cause Black and Latinx students to foreclose life options deemed not viable. As educators, we have an opportunity to inspire Black and Latinx students to boldly imagine robust versions of their postsecondary future selves. Beyond college and career, the condition domain especially offers space for a flourishing, thriving life vision not tied solely to financially-driven labor outcomes. Civic engagement and endeavors beyond work can compel joy and fulfillment and are a path to envisioning the evasive future “better life” that youth yearn for.

Awareness of gender differences.

While the research that inspired these lessons was theorized for Black and Latino adolescent boys, the lesson plans have the potential to deepen the thinking of boys, girls, and nonbinary students who are exploring their futures. Educators should be prepared for girls and boys to experience this material differently and to report different influences, future orientations, barriers, motivations, or emotions than those revealed in the research by Dr. Carey or offered as examples on this website. Be open to the many ways that gender-diverse students in your classroom may express: a) college, career and condition goals; b) their influences; c) their feared- and hoped-for selves; and d) the alignment of their ambitions.

Awareness of your own bias.

Flourishing future life conditions conceptualized by Black and Latinx students must be unhooked from outcomes defined by White, middle-class sensibilities or notions of the American Dream. Be careful to acknowledge your own perspectives and biases, and avoid comparing your students’ present actions and future prospects to White standards of respectability.

You may hear:

"I want to be somebody."

Students may express their vision in general terms or broad-stroke language used by their families, such as being successfulbeing somebodymaking it or having a future. These phrases signal that students want to find pride and fulfillment, but they may need help unpacking what those words look like in practice. Be sure to not stop at those phrases, and encourage the students to get specific.

"Like who?"

To help students envision options and pathways, it may be helpful to prepare examples of people who mirror the racial and ethnic demographics of your students and who have achieved success (on their terms) in various education paths, career industries, and life conditions.

"How will I be graded?"

Each lesson plan has been bundled with a rubric for healthy participation and engagement with the lesson. Be transparent with students and share the lesson rubric as a way of establishing expectations and reducing anxiety about having "the right answer."

Ready to begin?





Students will think broadly and boldly about their future 5 years from now.

Students will explore the powerful influences at work in their lives that can cause them to set limits, or defy them.

Students will determine how the three Cs of their imagined future selves work together to become a reality.

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