Paul Hogan
Paul Hogan
" If you just can’t figure out your next steps, or can’t stop playing video games, or can’t get out of the basement, SetPath helps.

" — Paul Hogan on mentorships for young adults

A longtime teacher and principal at Portland’s Jesuit High School is leading a free mentorship program to help young adults plan life and get going.

“Those of us with young adult children know how challenging the world is for those approaching or in their 20s, and how important a caring mentor can be in helping to navigate adulthood,” said Paul Hogan, who holds the title of “chief hope officer” for SetPath.

Hogan served at Jesuit for 28 years as a teacher and then principal. He and other educators saw youth anxiety and depression levels soar starting in about 2010, when social media became almost universal among the age group. As young people saw friends post glowing and retouched news, they felt inferior in comparison, no matter that the friends had edited out blemishes and struggles. In addition, social and political institutions are fraying and culture is divided.

“Young people are so idealistic. They look around and find it overwhelming,” Hogan said. In many cases, the feeling leads to an inability to act.

“They look at themselves and say, ‘I am never going to get there.’ And then we say, ‘Why not make a plan and see what happens?’” Hogan said. “When it comes to addressing this problem, the secret sauce is mentorship.”

SetPath offers free mentorship to anyone between 16 and 28.

It’s for high fliers who want to focus or those who have flown off course. The mentor, called a guide in SetPath terminology, meets weekly during three months with a young person, or planner.

“If you just can’t figure out your next steps, or can’t stop playing video games, or can’t get out of the basement, SetPath helps,” said Hogan.

Guides first help planners focus on who they want to be then explore possible steps in categories such as health, spirituality, friendship and family. Planners decide on achievable goals and the steps to get there. Common hopes include getting in better shape, beginning a career, improving relationships with parents and making a school sports team.

At weekly meetings, held online, the guide asks about progress on the plan. “You have an accountability partner but it’s not your mom,” said Hogan.

According to Pew Research, about half of 18- to 29-year-olds live with their parents. Hogan said humans typically make their biggest decisions in their 20s: spouse, location, job, spiritual life.

Landon Inman, a 26-year-old Jesuit High and University of Portland alumnus, went through SetPath in the spring with Hogan as a guide. Inman had just moved across the country so his wife could attend graduate school here. He had taken a position as an assistant manager at a tennis club, a job that turned out to be unhealthy. “It was toxic. I needed to pivot,” said Inman.

After three months with Hogan, Inman devised a plan and found a better job. He also deleted his social media accounts.

“Comparing everyone else’s highlights with your lowlights is not great for your self-esteem or honor that you are a different person,” said Inman, who would like to be a SetPath guide someday.

Inman said he knows peers who are just goofing off because they see no point and others who had an unrealistic idea of what it takes to navigate life.

“They expected to make a lot of money, have kids and live in the ’burbs,” said Inman, who urges young adults not to be embarrassed if the dream didn’t work out right away.

“I would say to them: People have been in your shoes before and they figured out how to navigate it,” said Inman. “There is no shame in where you are. It’s what you do with it that counts.”

Inman urged young adults to think less about money and more about their calling.

“The starting point for me is having a good theology around work that explains what work really is, why God created it and what his intention is for it,” Inman said.

Dayne Scanlon, a 29-year-old former youth minister who lives in Oregon City, is a SetPath guide. He thinks about 75% of young people struggle because they compare themselves to apparently more successful peers.

“A big portion of our job is pointing out to young people where they are doing well,” Scanlon said. “We are intentional encouragers. We come and show young people where they are crushing it.”

Scanlon said many young people settle for mediocrity if they don’t have something fit for Instagram or TikTok. “They wonder what the point is of trying,” he said. “Kids are not willing to grind it out. They want to have it now.”

“We are really legacy oriented,” said Kendra Vollstedt, a 32-year-old Lake Oswego resident who is a SetPath guide. “We start with how you want to be remembered. That’s less daunting than goals for this or that career.”

Vollstedt said religious belief helps many young people ground their identity and redefine their life purpose as for more than just themselves.

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