This blog is Part One in a series on virtual internships. Check back for to hear from the student and mentor perspective.
At the 2016 New Tech Annual Conference, Cross County High School (CCHS) received the Chad P. Wick Award for Social Justice. This award is given to a school that has demonstrated success in closing the opportunity gap for underserved students, something CCHS works hard at every year.
Less than a year later, the school has once again taken the leap to ensure that all students have the real-world opportunities that are hard to come by in a region that poses significant demographic challenges.
“For several years we had been trying to draw up a plan to make traditional internships logistically and financially feasible in our rural region. Professional experiences and interactions can provide students with the skill sets and mindsets that they need in order to thrive in college, a career, and in life. So, we took a risk and decided to create a virtual internship for our students,” said Keith Bardsley-District College and Career Advisor.
The goal of the virtual internship is to provide an authentic work experience. With over forty mentors identified, Cross County High is offering internships that vary from Marine Biology to filmmaking, with mentors located globally.
“We had strong support from New Tech Network including Megan Pacheco and Nick Kapplehof. They helped us see our challenge as a project, not unlike the Project-based learning we teach in the classroom every day,” said Sarah Heying, College and Career Advisor and English Composition Teacher.
“The school took on their challenge as an opportunity to innovate. The virtual internship engages students in meaningful work that truly reflects the 21st-century workplace,” said Pacheco, Chief Learning Officer at New Tech Network.
Sarah and Keith knew they wanted Cross County students to have as much opportunity as possible.
“We wanted to match student interest to job and job to real-world work. For instance, a student who is working with a police officer might work on crime rates and data much like the officer would,” said Bardsley.
The educators began with their personal network to source jobs; reaching back to colleges and past jobs, friends, and family.
“We also relied on cold calls. Frankly, we were amazed at the response from adults. People were overwhelmingly ready to give their time and expertise,” said Heying.
Bardsley continued, “Our fundamental belief is that each student deserves a great education. But sometimes you just have to get innovative in order to provide that.”