“I don’t know even where to begin,” Jennie remembers thinking just before she enrolled in Step Year – WMCAT’s college and career exploration program.

Five years after graduating high school, Jennie DeJong felt stuck. She wanted to invest in her future, and wanted to continue her education, but she felt the sticker shock of a college degree. She thought, “when I go to college, I need to know exactly what I’m going to do.”

Jennie went to work in the people-oriented service industry jobs she felt drawn to, but still wasn’t finding the clarity she desired.

Jennie (left), her peers, and Program Manager Rosie Runals (center, front) celebrate the end of the Step Year experience.

Step Year opened the door for Jennie to discover the direction she longed for. She learned about career possibilities she hadn’t considered through industry visits to places like tech startups, art museums, farms, and more. And even though she didn’t see herself becoming an artist, software developer, or farmer, Jennie realized there were roles each of these organizations had in common. “Oh, they need communications, they need human resources, they need all those different things . . . You can use your individual skills for something that you might not necessarily think you fit into.”

“One thing we focused on was social capital . . . you’re building so many connections that will be beneficial for you for the rest of your life.”

For Jennie, this was a breakthrough. As she made plans and completed Step Year, she focused on a future in human resources and felt the support from her peers along the way.

Jennie presents the future plans she made in Step Year.

Now, Jennie knows where to begin. She is implementing the plan she created at WMCAT — applying to administrative office roles and enrolling in community college tuition-free, thanks to resources she discovered in Step Year. Jennie is pursuing the future she’s always wanted, embracing learning along the way.

Learn more at wmcat.org/stepyear.