SetPath pairs young people aged 16-25 with a mentor for 90 days to develop actionable steps in a life plan for a generation that feels lost.
PORTLAND, Ore. — Now that humans identify as part of named generations, let’s meet the penultimate group. Generation Z includes young people between the ages of 10 and 25. (The younger ones are known as Generation Alpha.) The Economist newspaper described Generation Z as “more educated, well-mannered, stressed and depressed” compared to previous generations.
A new mentorship program in the Portland area is targeting Gen Z to help. SetPath is a non-profit organization that pairs young people with a full-time mentor to help them develop a “life plan” for a generation that feels lost.
“I saw this as a real and incredible opportunity to address a need and what I would consider a crisis,” said Paul Hogan, Director of Hope at SetPath. He spent 28 years as a teacher, coach and more than a decade as principal of Jesuit High School in Portland before joining the nonprofit.
“Young people who come to SetPath aren’t necessarily in crisis,” Hogan explained. “They’re just looking for a way to navigate what can feel like a really overwhelming world.”
Gen Z is dealing with crumbling mental health, a highly unstable job market, and questions about higher education such as “Is college worth it?” and “when should I go, now or later?”
RELATED: Doctor Steps In To Take First Steps To Tackle Depression And Anxiety
Friendships and dating after a pandemic are difficult. Such is family life. Then there can be spiritual components and issues, not to mention physical health pressures and concerns. Gen Z talks about endemic instability and tension in politics, civility, their immediate family dynamics, and the job market. They crave calm and the knowledge that everything will be fine.
SetPath works with people between the ages of 16 and 25, called “planners”, and matches them with young professionals who have walked this path themselves and have experience with young people, such as a former youth minister . Young professionals are called “Guides”. Together, through a lot of listening, they create the beginnings of a stable life plan, step by step, in 90 days, checking in each week, then sending them flying on their own. Everything is free thanks to fundraisers and grants.
“If you have a plan and have someone to talk to about it, life can feel a lot less overwhelming,” Hogan said.
RELATED: Suicide Attempts Linked to Increase in Medications in Children Ages 10-12, OHSU Study Finds
Bella Marin is a recent SetPath Planner and “graduate” of the program.
“SetPath came at the perfect time because in the midst of me being very confused, a mentor came to my side and guided me,” she said.
Marina is 19 years old. She only had two years of normal high school before the pandemic took over. Now that she’s graduated, she said she no longer hangs out with any of her old friends because of the awkwardness and isolation of remote living. Marin is now taking online classes at a community college to get her degree in theology and has a part-time job.
“I was definitely confused about how my life was going, how my relationships were going,” Marin said. “And then when the pandemic hit, I definitely saw, okay, who are the real ones in my life, who are going to stick by my side when times get tough.”
Kendra Vollstedt was Marin’s SetPath guide.
“So it really starts with the legacy aspect of your life. So not just who do you want to be, but how do you want to be remembered?” she says.
Vollstedt is a former youth minister who has worked with young people her entire career and has strong mentors herself, as well as plenty of leadership coaching.
“I’m not your mother and I’m not your therapist,” she laughed. “Actually, I’m just someone who guides you, who walks by your side and who doesn’t have an agenda for your life. I think that agenda is also what separates us a little bit. I think that As a parent, it can be really easy to want certain things for your child. Desire certain things and start instilling that in their life. I’m coming because I don’t know who you are and what you want. I’m listening And then I ask these pointed questions from a place of really wanting them to succeed on their own,” Vollstedt said.
So what is the reality of Gen Z careers? Vollstedt said most of the planners she helps have multiple part-time jobs just because they have to; they can’t find full-time jobs that support them. Remote or hybrid working should also be an option.
“Especially in the midst of the pandemic, there were already the overwhelming aspects of life. What job am I going to take? Where am I going to move? How am I going to live? Those were already in play for this generation,” Vollsedt said. “Then you factor in a complete shutdown of his life. And so they became very critical of themselves and started comparing and contrasting all the social media they see, because it’s ultimately what they needed to communicate with each other. A lot of that, I feel, led to this crisis a bit, of knowing almost what they don’t want more than what they want. So I think it’s like, I don’t want the 40-hour-a-week job where I’m bogged down and I can’t travel and I can’t see people. And I say that’s great, but that will you? And I think asking that question is what’s so paralyzing post-pandemic.”
Once you set goals, how do you track them?
Vollstedt had this advice: “We want to review our life plan for the first 30 days every day. And then you want to switch to looking at it probably once a week after that. Can you put the life plan in front of you? “Do you put it on the mirror while you brush your teeth? Can you turn your checklist into things you already do? Can you match these habits?”
Paul Hogan said that in all his years as an educator, he began to see the writing on the wall that a mentorship program like this was needed.
“Young people want what they’ve always wanted, which is to be physically healthy, to be mentally healthy, to find a meaningful school and job. They want to have good relationships with their friends and family, but it seems to be more and more difficult for young people. And we could see that coming for many years until now.
Finally, what did Bella Marin, the planner, learn?
“It’s important to reach out to your mentors when you’re struggling, especially when you’re overwhelmed with not really understanding where you are in life. It’s okay to reach out because they don’t won’t always reach out to you. You’re supposed to take the initiative in this situation.”
She added, “It’s okay not knowing everything about your future, which sucks because my generation likes to know things, like, now! Even if you don’t have an end goal in mind. , it’s okay. You’re going to take steps to get there.”
If you know a 16-25 year old who could benefit from SetPath, learn more on their website to review the next 90-Day cohort. It’s all about donations and fundraising, and they’re looking for help that way too.