The Journey to Real World Skills

February 22, 2017

Tech Valley High School has offered students a path to college and career since opening in 2007. From freshman to senior year, students begin and end with a unique internship program that provides an authentic post-graduate experience.

The school’s mission is to provide real-world learning experiences while developing skills identified by higher education and business leaders as being crucial to the 21st-century economy. To support its mission, Tech Valley holds I-Term every year. It’s an independent project undertaken by all students, building in scope and complexity across four years to ultimately help students pursue college and career choices.

Students begin freshman year on a journey to discover and match their passions with career fields. By junior year, they take part in a week-long internship program that culminates in presentations modeled after the popular, Ted Talks.  During their senior year, they complete  2-week do-it-yourself internships and give presentations that reflect how previous I-terms helped shape their senior projects.

Every project during the entire school year at Tech Valley has a community business partner. “Our goal is to provide an authentic education for students and give them a taste of the real world,” Principal James Niedermeier said.

Engineer Cody Bellair, back, works with Tech Valley High School senior Austin Case at Precision Valve and Automation, a robotics manufacturing company in Cohoes, New York. Case did a two-week internship at the company and worked with Bellair, a TVHS alum.

Engineer Cody Bellair

“Career exposure is such an important part of high school, and I’m grateful to have had that experience because so many schools don’t give you those opportunities,” Bellair said. “That’s why I wanted to go back to Tech Valley and stress to the students that it’s important for you to figure out what you want to do, and what you don’t want to do.”

Bellair said his own I-Term experiences helped him do exactly that. He credits his freshman year I-Term experience with piquing his interest in engineering. He built a four-bit computer.

“That’s when I realized I loved robotics and artificial intelligence,” Bellair said.

His senior year, Bellair did his I-Term at the international student department at a university in southern Germany.

“I didn’t care for it. It was fun, but I realized higher education administration was not something I was interested in, which is just as important,” Bellair said.

Companies and community partnerships range from a funeral home to NASA at Tech Valley.

“This is real work, not shadowing. The work they do is representative of what they would do in that career field,” Principal Niedermeier said.

Tech Valley Senior Jannat Begum

From their experiences, students have to create artifacts to represent their work. For example, senior Jannat Begum completed her I-Term at Marra’s Pharmacy in Cohoes. She developed inventory and temperature control methods for medications that are sensitive to environmental changes. She was responsible for more than $18,000 in medications.

“This experience helped me realize this is exactly what I want to do. I want to major in pharmacy and I know I will be ahead of my peers because of the experiences I had,” Begum said.

“This program helps our students get a much clearer understanding of what is available after high school. They get experiences and can make informed decisions on college and career. They are making great choices based on great experience,” Niedermeier said.


See more stories about internships at Tech Valley.

This spotlight is part of the NTN series on college and career. Read more stories from NTN students, parents, schools and community.