A Positive Youth Development Approach to College and Career Readiness


  • Shannon J. Horrillo University of Nevada, Reno Extension
  • Martin H. Smith University of California, Davis
  • Tamekia R. Wilkins University of California, Agriculture and Natural Resources
  • Claudia P. Diaz Carrasco University of California, Agriculture and Natural Resources
  • Nathaniel W. Caeton University of California, Agriculture and Natural Resources
  • Darlene McIntyre University of California, Agriculture and Natural Resources
  • Lynn Schmitt-McQuitty University of California, Agriculture and Natural Resources




post-secondary education, positive youth development, adolescence, Latino youth, college readiness, career readiness


Pathways to Your Future is a college and career readiness program for youth in Grades 9 through 12. The program’s curriculum provides youth with resources and opportunities to develop knowledge and learn skills that help them align their sparks with potential careers, while exploring various pathways to enter the workforce. The family component includes a pre-program orientation, a financing and budgeting workshop, and take-home materials. Latino students made up 71% of the study participants. Retrospective pre- and post-program surveys were administered to youth and parents/guardians. Results indicated that the program equipped youth participants with the knowledge and skills to plan and manage their education and career goals, prepared them for a successful post-secondary educational experience and/or entry into the workforce, and increased the number of participants who planned to attend a post-secondary institution. Few gender differences were found. Findings suggest the program increased participating parents’ knowledge, skills, and involvement in their children’s college and career aspirations and plans. The results pointed to the importance of a holistic approach to college and career readiness that involves the youth and their parents nested in a positive youth development model. 

Author Biography

Shannon J. Horrillo, University of Nevada, Reno Extension

Dr. Horrillo is the Associate Director of Extension at the University of Nevada, Reno (UNR) where she provides primary support to the Associate Dean of Engagement and Director of Extension in the College of Agriculture, Biotechnology, and Natural Resources. She serves as the state program contact for agriculture, natural resources, family and consumer sciences, children, youth, and families, and nutrition, and is responsible for providing leadership for effective programming in Nevada’s rural and urban communities. Dr. Horrillo is also responsible for gathering and compiling data on Extension’s reach and impact in communities and maintaining a system of accountability to our stakeholders and funders. Prior to joining UNR in August of 2019, she spent 11 years with Cooperative Extension in California. Dr. Horrillo started her career as a county-based faculty developing 4-H youth and families’ programs in Placer and Nevada counties, and then assumed the role of Associate Director of 4-H and subsequently Director of 4-H. As Director, she increased revenue and extramural funding that resulted in significant growth of 4-H – doubling enrollment over a 5-year period. She developed new programs related to agriculture, natural resources, and college and career readiness, and led the largest effort in the nation to increase enrollment of Latino youth and families in 4-H. Dr. Horrillo has won numerous awards at the state, regional, and national level recognizing exceptional programming and service to Extension. Dr. Horrillo received her Bachelors, Masters, and PhD from the University of California, Davis in the areas of child and human development.


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