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Iowa students get career experience before college

May 20, 2018

DUBUQUE, Iowa (AP) — So far this semester, Adrianna Schroeder has observed a bladder tumor removal, two knee replacements and two tonsil removals.

Shadowing surgeries at UnityPoint Health-Finley Hospital has given the Wahlert Catholic High School senior the chance to see a different side of the human body.

“I just thought it would be a good opportunity for me to learn about the body,” she told the Telegraph Herald .

Schroeder has spent her semester volunteering and observing surgeries during an internship program offered through a partnership between Holy Family Catholic Schools and the Dubuque hospital.

She and many of her classmates have been participating in internships and other career opportunities. School officials say they are trying to help more of their students gain career experience while still in high school.

“We are trying to make it something that’s a more regular course here in high school,” said Katie Lenart, school counselor at Wahlert.

Through the partnership between Finley and Holy Family, high school seniors spend time volunteering and then shadow in an area of interest, Lenart said. The experience is part of a class for which students receive credit.

Jolene Koopmann, Finley’s manager of volunteer services, said the program allows participants to gain work experience, develop new skills and network.

“It’s such a great opportunity for them to really get hands-on, real-life experience, to learn how to work with all the different dynamics in health care,” she said.

Schroeder said her time at Finley helped her see that she enjoys working with people and that she can adapt to different situations.

“I enjoyed all of it, but I think my favorite part was being able to interact with people,” she said.

Wahlert senior Olivia Clark spent her semester in the hospital’s behavioral health unit, where she talked with patients, assisted with games and crafts and helped serve lunch.

“I like the volunteering,” said Clark, whose goal is to one day become a clinical psychologist. “I think it’s helped me better understand what I want to do with my future.”

At Wahlert, opportunities for internships and other career experiences have evolved organically, Lenart said. Students come forward with job interests and school officials help them connect with local businesses.

Eventually, school officials would like to see all students take a set of courses that cover success in high school, real-world communication and college and career preparation. After that, they would get an internship their senior year, Lenart said.

As college costs continue to rise, it is important to help students realize their interests before they start post-secondary education, she said. That could potentially help students save money in the long run, she said.

Both locally and across the state of Iowa, school officials are striving to give students opportunities for career experience before they leave high school.

Last month, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds signed into law the Future Ready Iowa Act as part of the state’s goal for 70 percent of workers to have post-high school education or training by 2025.

One provision of the law is the creation of a summer youth intern program. The goal is to provide young people at risk of dropping out of school and from low-income homes or underrepresented communities with internships.

Dubuque Community School District officials hope to expand student exposure to future careers. One goal of the district’s new five-year strategic plan, which was approved by the school board in March, is for 100 percent of graduates to have some kind of college or career experience by 2023.

“It’s the trend in all of education ... today to say that we prepare kids to be ready,” said David Olson, district director of secondary education.

In the Dubuque school district, officials are preparing to launch a marketing internship program.

Participating high school students would take a one-period marketing class and then be given another period to work at an internship, said David Moeller, career technical education curriculum coordinator for the district.

“They learn in the class and they apply it on the job,” he said. “They learn from the job and they apply it in the class.”

Currently, Dubuque students can participate in job shadows through Northeast Iowa Community College’s Career Learning Link. School district officials are working with NICC to provide more internship opportunities in the future, Moeller said.

Internships provide students with a chance to explore their interests, gain work experience and learn the soft skills that employers are asking for, Moeller said.

“We really think internships provide the opportunity for that, and for really exploring what career opportunities that they’re interested in,” he said.

Though Galena Illinois High School Principal Beth Murphy has not seen much interest in internships from her students, some students do find career-relevant work through its partnership with the Jo Daviess Carroll CTE Academy in Elizabeth.

“They get credit, and they could get paid, so it’s kind of a win-win,” she said.

At Western Dubuque High School, students can participate in a school-to-work program through which they are placed in internships or mentoring positions at a workplace.

“I believe these help them decide what they want to do,” said John Nickol Jr., the district’s school-to-work coordinator.

Students seem to be more interested in narrowing their job focus before taking on the expenses of college, he said.

“This gives them that confidence or gives them that ability to say, ‘Yes, I want to do this,’ or ‘No, this is not for me,’” Nickol said.

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Information from: Telegraph Herald, http://www.thonline.com

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