Contributed by: NXU

Ensuring students’ well-being and rebuilding a sense of community will be of utmost importance as schools begin to navigate the return to in-person learning. A strong sense of direction can catalyze engagement, social emotional awareness, and career outcomes for all students.

nXu’s Purpose Opportunity Program (POP) helps high school educators implement career exploration, purpose, and social-emotional learning (SEL) development programming within their school. POP guides educators as they incorporate purpose development into the fabric of their schools and organizations. Over one school year, educators receive virtual training, support, and access to nXu’s career exploration, purpose, and SEL development curricula and a related measurement system, as well as assistance with data analysis.

How does the strategy create more equitable access and opportunities?

Given the systematic challenges BIPOC students and students from low-income backgrounds face, it is critical to cultivate their sense of purpose—along with the related social-emotional (SEL) mindsets, tools, and skills. A guiding sense of purpose can serve as a north star in our increasingly complex society and world of work; it has become even more important after the challenges of the last year. A recent survey analysis by Gallup reveals that BIPOC students and students from low-income backgrounds have experienced especially severe learning challenges as a result of COVID-19. They reported feeling disengaged from their learning experience, as well as from their school community; and among low-income students who have been learning remotely, 46% stated they were falling behind in their learning this year. Given this context, it is imperative to reignite a sense of direction and investment in students’ learning; research by David Yaeger, Angela Duckworth, and others indicate that a sense of purpose can increase academic engagement and is correlated with positive career identities. It can also serve as a foundation for additional career experiences—such as internships, assistantships, etc.—that caters to students’ interests.

What outcomes or benefits are associated with the strategy?



School Culture

What are the budget implications for implementing the strategy?

The primary cost of implementing this strategy is the curricula and professional development for educators. At nXu, the cost for the first educator from one school is $2,500 per educator. For each additional educator up to nine educators from the same school, it is $1,000 per educator. The cost of participation is inclusive of all programming and also includes access to nXu’s curriculum and measurement system.

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What are the estimated costs for implementing the strategy?

  • Professional Development: $1,000 per educator

How will the strategy limit significant recurring costs while ensuring long-term sustainability?

Implementing a purpose and career exploration program requires an initial investment to build the capacity of educators and school staff, but there are no additional recurring expenses once all necessary staff have received training. By the end of nXu’s year-long program, for example, educators will have the necessary training and curricular resources needed to continue implementing the model and sharing practices with other members of their team.

What is the anticipated timeline for launching the strategy?

A purpose and career exploration program can be implemented quickly. After selecting the curriculum and training teachers, there are no structural barriers to prevent immediate adoption.

What internal and/or external capacity (e.g. personnel, infrastructure, training, etc.) is needed to launch the strategy? To monitor and sustain it?


  • All participating educators will be expected to participate in professional development throughout the school year. At nXu, programming totals approximately 20 hours.
  • All participating educators will be expected to teach lessons regarding SEL, career exploration, and/or purpose discovery over the course of one school year
  • All participating schools will be expected to track data and outcomes.

Monitor and Sustain

  • For schools and districts that choose to work together on implementing this program, it is ideal to have a liaison who can manage cross-district communication and schedule convenings. At nXu, districts that work together select one liaison to manage communication between districts and nXu.
Foster Student Career and Studies - Invest Forward
Allison Shelley for EDUimages
Purpose Opportunity Program - Invest Forward

What are the first 3-5 steps to take to implement the strategy?

  1. Determine purpose-driven, career exploratory curricula
  2. Define success for the program and pinpoint metrics to track
  3. Assign a staff member to lead the work and develop appropriate structures for delivery (e.g. instructional time in master schedule, professional development and coaching for educators, etc.)
  4. Provide professional development opportunities and ongoing coaching support
  5. Track and share metrics for student progress

What are potential challenges for implementing the strategy?

  1. Challenge: Instructional time: Incorporating any new curriculum requires an allocation of instructional time.
    • Solution: Schools can integrate purpose-driven curriculum in a range of contexts (e.g. advisory, electives, integration into an existing course)
  2. Challenge: Curriculum Integration: Schools must integrate purpose across a broader spectrum of new curricula and activities within the student experience
    • Solution: Integrate students’ own purpose statements/insights into learner profiles and/or guidance structures
  3. Challenge: Scheduling: Related to the professional development hours, schools and districts will need to work to integrate time within their master schedule.
    • Solution: Districts and schools can integrate purpose-driven & career exploration professional development hours into existing staff trainings and educator work days.

What are models of schools, districts, and/or organizations that are successfully implementing this strategy?

  • nXu has served approximately 40 school and organizational partners. In particular, nXu worked closely with Transcend to develop and create purpose-driven curriculum. nXu participants reported 100% more growth on assessments of sense of purpose compared to a control group of students.
  • Similar to nXu’s career and purpose-driven curriculum, Cajon Valley Union School District utilizesWorld of Work (WoW). The World of Work curriculum provides students with career-related learning opportunities, including learning from professionals in their field, workplace simulations, and career exploration curriculum. Over 50,000 students across seven districts in Cajon Valley have successfully implemented WoW programming.
  • iCouldBe also focuses on social-emotional learning and career development to drive successful outcomes. iCouldBe connects high school students to online mentors who guide them through themed “quests” rooted in social emotional development, problem-solving, college and career exploration. Students also map their networks, or social capital, that they are developing to help them accomplish their goals. The program has served over 24,000 students. In total, 26% feel more confident applying to college and 17% feel more confident creating a roadmap plan to a desired career.
  • Project Wayfinder combines social emotional learning, job and career readiness through project-based and real world events to prepare high school students for life. Students that complete Wayfinder Purpose SEL curriculum are 4x more likely to be hopeful about their future.

What are some additional resources for districts/states interested in implementing this strategy?