In a country that idealizes college as the key to long-term success and autonomy, it can be challenging to find alternatives to this conventional, socially prescribed pathway. Next Steps, a workforce development program run by the Brookline Housing Authority, has teamed up the Brookline Teen Center, to acknowledge the reality that college isn’t always right for everyone. On November 18 from 5-8PM, they will host the “Alternatives to College” fair at the Brookline Teen Center, in an effort to make the search for other options easier and more accessible.

According to Next Steps’ director, Grace Yung Watson, at least thirty businesses, government agencies, community colleges that offer certificate programs, and non-profit organizations will have representatives on hand to share information about training, employment, and educational opportunities with the fair’s attendees.

Throughout her tenure at Next Steps, Ms. Watson has met people from every demographic who have gone to college right after high school, but eventually dropped out for reasons ranging from straight-forward unpreparedness to family emergencies and financial instability. Most end up with crushing debt that follows them for many years and impedes their financial autonomy. “By providing exposure to career pathways that could be comfortable, successful, and fulfilling”, she says, “we hope to serve those who wish to enter the workforce right away as well as people for whom a 4-year college trajectory isn’t or wasn’t feasible.”

George Zahka, Assistant Director of Programming at Brookline Teen Center, made it clear what the fair is and is not. Zahka, “This is not a job fair. We have invited businesses that are known for treating their employees well and promoting from within. College fairs provide the opportunity for a young person to connect with representatives of colleges they’re interested in attending, while also learning about colleges they’re unfamiliar with but may also be a great match for them.  The “Alternatives to College” fair will provide the same experience for young people who believe college may not be the right fit for them”. Zhaka added, “We are very appreciative of the Brookline Community Foundation for helping to fund this event”.

George and Grace stressed that the fair is not just for Brookline residents or students from Brookline High School, anyone from Greater Boston is welcome to attend.  Watson, “It’s the perfect opportunity for all adults wishing to further or change their own careers to learn about available opportunities. Anyone who wishes to explore new professional trajectories is welcome”.

For more information on the “Alternatives to College” fair including a list of exhibitors, go to Attendees are strongly encouraged to take public transportation, as on-street parking is limited. The Brookline Teen Center is located at 40 Aspinwall Avenue, Brookline and is within walking distance from the 66 bus and the Brookline Village stop on the Green Line’s D branch.

~ Cori Taitz