Linda Kyaw, Senior Design Manager, Mattel

When I was a boy growing up we had career days at school when parents with interesting jobs came to speak about the work they did. It seemed like there was always a police officer or fireman, maybe a doctor. But I don’t remember learning about other diverse, day-to-day job opportunities or industries. And I don’t remember feeling inspired to pursue something that I could actually see myself doing. 

A recent visit to one Sharefest classroom found a visit from Linda Kyaw of Mattel’s Barbie Division. The group of students listened as Linda shared her very personal story of coming to the US as a child from Myanmar, struggling with feelings of being lost, restless, and misunderstood, and how she found the courage to believe in herself and her dreams. 

Linda is the Senior Designer for Barbie. One of two speakers Mattel shared with our students as a part of Sharefest’s ongoing Career and Workforce Development speaker series. When students were asked via survey what they were interested in learning about, our team combed through requests for trades like electrical or construction, but also for more creative pursuits–one of which was design. 

One of the most important things Sharefest has learned over the last 20 years in working with continuation high school youth is to listen. 

Nataliya Bobytska, Localization Coordinator, Mattel

It sounds simple, but if you stop to think about how much of our society is geared towards telling students what to do, and what not to do, you begin to realize that our youth actually have a lot to say. They have preferences, hopes, concerns, passions, and dreams.

As Sharefest has evolved over the years from its roots in service projects to a more immersive life skills and workforce development programming model, we have refined our listening skills, allowing what we’re hearing from our students to shape our curriculum and resources. 

Unlike other organizations that work with similar student audiences, one of the things that sets Sharefest apart is that we cultivate relationships with organizations and professionals based largely on student interest. Rather than simply being a pipeline for certain industries, we actively engage students, allow them to tell us what industries or lines of work they are interested in learning more about—and then we go out and bring those people to them.

Our incredible Career and Workforce Development team works tirelessly to research and recruit professionals that speak to student interests and passions, while also nurturing relationships with longtime community partners. 

Retired NFL player and motivational speaker Kory Minor
Pauly Sue Lopez, Respiratory Therapist, Children’s Hospital Orange County
Moises Figueroa shares the opportunities at SA Recycling

This spring semester alone, Sharefest students will have had access to over 40 speaker experiences featuring organizations and individuals like Southern California Edison; speaker, author, and former NFL athlete Kory Minor; financial services advisor, podcaster, and coach Jamal Shofani; S.A. Recycling; the HVAC Local 250; a respiratory therapist from Children’s Hospital of Orange County; and the wonderful representatives from Mattel highlighting the Mattel TV and Barbie Design divisions—to name just a few.

One Sharefest Instructor had this to share:

“This month students have had the opportunity to hear from multiple guest speakers. Yesterday we had two speakers from Los Angeles College of Aesthetics. We’ve also had speakers from multiple trade unions including the IBEW Local 11 Electricians Union. This not only gave students the opportunity to learn, it gave them the opportunity to speak with these amazing guest speakers, introduce themselves, and connect if they felt drawn to the specific presentation. We recently learned about professional communication which is extremely important for students who are looking for a job, working a job, or wanting to build social capital or networking. The students are beginning to be more comfortable introducing themselves, holding a conversation with someone they just met, and expressing their own skills and future goals.”

I’d like to personally thank each and every one of our speakers for sharing their time, and often their very personal stories, to inform and inspire our students. You are such an important part of the Sharefest path.

About Sharefest: 

Sharefest builds hope and pathways to economic success for youth facing significant barriers. Serving over 300 youth a year, their primary work takes place inside LAUSD Continuation High Schools from Wilmington to Watts. Sharefest students participate in college and career courses that accelerate earning the credits they desperately need to graduate. The Sharefest team mentors and provides students with the necessary skills, support, and connections to achieve their career and college goals. After high school graduation, youth continue to receive support, guidance, and mentoring as they enter into the workforce or community college. Sharefest’s work with youth is partially funded by facilitating service projects for area businesses that want to give back to their surrounding communities.