Help on the path to career fulfillment

A Costa Mesa-based nonprofit aimed at helping high school and college students find their career path received a $250,000 check from AT&T; on Tuesday morning.

Roadtrip Nation plans to use the money to reach 10,000 at-risk high school students in continuation schools and AVID college-readiness programs in Texas, New York, Georgia, Tennessee and Florida, according to co-founder Mike Marriner. Roadtrip Nation primarily works with students in California, he said.

Roadtrip Nation began in 2001 when friends Marriner and Nathan Gebhard, originally from Laguna Beach, and Brian McAllister, originally of Newport Beach, set out on a cross-country trip unsure of what career paths they wanted to follow. The college grads crossed the nation, interviewing people who'd found meaningful professions.

That trip resulted in a documentary series and a roadtrip for college-age students. In 2008, Roadtrip Nation began its high school curriculum program, which is geared toward helping students find meaningful life paths.

"You need to give them a transformational experience that gives them hope for the future," Marriner said Tuesday.

So far 100,000 high school students, mainly in California, have participated in the Roadtrip Nation high school curriculum. The outreach program includes 12 lessons for high school and higher education students, a self-guided project and a journal.

Richard Porras, AT&T; regional vice president of external affairs, met with about 30 Roadtrip Nation employees over bagels and coffee Tuesday to give the group the money.

"What I'm hearing today, you guys are touching so many folks," he said. "You're out there asking the right people the questions, and that's the kids. … I just see that you're giving a lot of hope to a lot of people."

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