INTERNSHIP PROGRAM | Being a Big Picture High School
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Here at Two Rivers Big Picture High School, all students are required to actively participate in their own learning. Big Picture schools are designed to encourage students to explore different interests, find careers they want to learn more about, find internships, secure mentors, do hands on projects and year end presentations. Because are classroom sizes are smaller than traditional high school classrooms, we can work closely with each kid to help them through the process ensuring they take each step necessary to be successful at finding an internship. Our student body is supported by advisors, staff, peers, parents, and mentors.
Learning Through Interest (LTI)
The Learning Through Interest (LTI), or internship program, is a crucial learning piece for our students. We believe in having the experts guide and mentor the student in whatever chosen field they are curious about. This program is designed to give our students real world learning experiences. What better way to gain real world experiences and hands on learning then to do an internship side by side with a professional in that field.
Before students contact anyone, we take them through a professional development course-or as we like to call it Bootcamp. During this time, we work on everything from interviews, resumes, research, the dos and don’ts at the work site, email and phone etiquette. We learn the 4 steps of landing an internship, which include the scariest step—making the first initial call. We role play with our peers and staff while all the time following a script until we are ready to make contact. Even after Bootcamp is done, we still work with the students one on one, supporting them through each step until an internship is landed. Students continue through the cycle of researching interests, conducting the informational interview, landing a shadow day until an internship is secured. No matter where a kid is at in the cycle, they are being supported in advisory, by staff, peers, and parents. Once they have an internship and mentor, they move onto the next phase of going to the workplace and creating a project.
Ins and Outs of the Internship
Internships are done on Wednesdays. Students do not come to school on Wednesdays if they have an internship. Most internships are between 5-7 hours and are considered a school day. Most internships run for 3+ months. Students can do several different internships in one school year. Remember this program is driven from the student’s interests and we encourage them to try different things. If for example someone is interested in becoming a veterinarian, they may choose to intern at a Vet clinic. That internship might run from October to February. They may also be interested in in photography. So, from March to June, they might secure an internship with a photographer. The idea is for the student to choose what they want to learn and explore. What happens if they do not find an internship or are not doing the work? They will come to school on Wednesdays and work all day on conducting phone interviews and working towards landing an internship. Advisors and staff work one on one with them, until each kid finds something. On a side note: if they still are not able to land an internship, we have several businesses in the area that are willing to host a handful of kids- these places are soft landings, and we can place a student there if need be- just to help get their feet wet until they can find something on their own.
Students at Two Rivers Big Picture High School are expected to be an active participant in their own school experience. Students are encouraged to explore those things they are interested in, whether it is learning how to fix cars, producing music, or running a non-profit organization. Each student gets to decide what “thing” they want to learn more about. They explore these interests through their internships, their mentor’s expertise and of course their hands on projects.
The Process & Requirements
Once a student identifies an area of interest, they then research who to call, whether it is an actual person or a business. ImBlaze is a program we use to house all our contacts or “Opportunities”. Before a student can call anyone, we require them to ask for permission or “Request to Pursue” through ImBlaze. (We go over how to use ImBlaze in Bootcamp). Once a student gets the ok to pursue, the student then makes contact. By requiring students to ask for permission first, we can regulate how often the business is being called. We do not want 15 different kids calling the same place. And it helps us keep track of what kinds of places a student is interested in contacting. ImBlaze is used to house all the internship set up details, hours worked, attendance, mentor, and business information.
This is the hardest step by far, making that first initial contact. Almost everyone we talk to, agrees to do an informational interview. This is a chance for a student to set up a time to call back and talk about the person’s career or expertise. We train and use a script for this step. Students ask questions like, “How did you get started?”, “What’s a typical day look like” and lastly, “Is it possible to do a Shadow Day?” If the contact person says yes, then we move forward with setting up the Shadow Day.
If a student lands a Shadow Day, they will tell their advisor and the Internship Coordinator. The Internship Coordinator then follows up by doing a Washington State background check and has the host sign the Host Shadow Day Agreement. It is our school district’s policy that all hosts and mentors, pass a Washington State Background Check. Again, this is conducted by the Internship Coordinator before any student goes to work with any adult. Once the background check is complete, and the date and time of the Shadow Day is set, we then send home a Parent Permission form for the said Shadow Day. This has the all the details listed of when, where, what business and what to expect. Once we receive the parent permission form back, we then lock in the Shadow Day. It is up to the parent and / or student to get themselves to and from the Shadow Day. These are also done on Wednesdays and therefore are considered a school day. Students do not come to school if they have a Shadow Day scheduled.
If the student liked the Shadow Day and host, they would then ask for an internship. If the student didn’t like the experience, they don’t have to ask for an internship. This is the beauty of being at a Big Picture School, you get to decide what experiences you want to have. However, most students end up asking for the internship. If for some reason an internship wasn’t an option, they start the process over again; finding an interest, researching it, requesting to pursue an opportunity, making contact, conducting an informational interview and going on another Shadow Day. If the internship is an option- the advisor lets the Internship Coordinator know they are now moving forward to set this up as an internship. From there, a packet goes out for all parties to sign. (host/mentor, parents and student). Once the packet is complete and in order, the advisor and student have what we call an LTI Set Up Meeting. This is usually a face to face sit down meeting with the mentor, student, and advisor to go over all the details of the internship. Things such as; do we get a lunch break, who do I call if I can’t make it in, what are my duties, what time to clock in and out, etc.. Once the LTI Set up meeting is complete and set up in ImBlaze, the student starts the internship. All transportation to and from the work site is the responsibility of the student and/ or parent.
At the LTI/ Internship Set Up Meeting- the advisor usually schedules 3 dates to come back on site, to do a face-to-face visit. The advisor also talks about the project piece. One of the elements to the internship is for students to come up with a project that will either benefit the business, a project they can work side by side with their mentor on, or a project they do outside of their internship but still requires a mentor’s expertise and guidance. Example of projects can be---creating a website for the business, helping the mentor organize an upcoming event, creating a logo for the company or mimicking an project the mentor is actually working on for their company. The advisors will help guide the student and work with the mentor to help brainstorm ideas, if need be.
Ending the Internship:
Almost all internships have a set end date. This date is usually created during the LTI Set up Meeting. Some businesses are seasonal and have an end date in mind. Some mentors want to leave the end date open while agreeing to go for at least 3months. Because the advisors, mentors and students are all communicating during the internship, usually an end date is decided later in the internship. If for some reason, the student or mentor wants to end the internship early, we will coach the students on how to do that professionally and gracefully. At the end of all internships, students write a Thank You letter to their mentor, thanking them for their time and the opportunity. It is in advisory that students also do reflection pieces throughout this experience and update their resumes and / or portfolios with their internship experiences.
Once the internship is done, the process starts over. If there is enough time in the school year, the student might try to land another internship or maybe do a handful of Shadow Days. Either way, the cycle starts again. Seeing how much our students grow from their Freshman to Senior year, in this program, is a sight to see. Not only do they gain confidence, but they also end up leaving high school with a resume full of internship experiences, community and personal projects, presentation experience and often times a referral from one of the mentors for future endeavors. The internship program is more than just getting real world experiences, it is a program designed to build confidence, professional skills and hopefully assist them in furthering their career wants. It is our goal to support them through their high school days all the while encouraging them to reach for those things that inspire and interest them so they will always be learning and growing.