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Real-World Schooling

Grand Prairie students inspect the crime scene and gather data.

When I attended high school, I learned reading, writing, and arithmetic, with a few practical classes thrown in for good measure. I was a lover of science and nature and curious about everything, but there was no outlet for me to explore my interests beyond the classroom, except for a periodic science experiment in the lab.

I am impressed with schools these days that are preparing our students in high school with practical internships and job readiness classes. These students are talented, eager to learn, and seeking the answer to the question: what do I want to be when I grow up? There is no better way to explore their options than through hands-on experiences, amongst seasoned professionals in fields that interest them. I only wish my curious high school self had been given the opportunity to intern at a lab, working alongside incredible chemists or biologists.

My big idea is that we set up internship programs and offer more job readiness classes in high schools throughout Dallas-Fort Worth.

Take internships. The Mayor’s Intern Fellows Program matches 300 students with businesses, hospitals, agencies, and firms over an eight-week period to expose them to jobs in many sectors along with a stipend. In addition to learning practical business skills, these students are learning soft skills of responsibility, integrity, communications, and cooperation. Some may even find their calling in life through an internship, and with this mentorship, they will be able to learn the available paths to find job fulfillment.

My big idea is that we set up internship programs and offer more job readiness classes in high schools throughout Dallas-Fort Worth.

At Irma Rangel Young Women’s Leadership School, the first Young Women’s Preparatory Network school, two students participated in a competitive internship in which they studied DNA and other topics alongside Ph.D. candidates, some of whom are medical doctors. Through a grant from Attorneys Serving the Community, these students received a stipend along with real world experience.

Think of what it would be like if all high schools in the region had an internship program to offer students practical work experiences. A student might thrive and decide to attend law school after following an attorney preparing for a trial. Working as a researcher in a lab might teach a student not only that she wants to pursue a career in the sciences, but more specific interests will come to light—pharmaceuticals or bioengineering. Planning a gallery opening with a gallery owner might ignite a spark in a student to pursue event management or even arts and business administration. The possibilities are endless.

This exposure is exciting for a student, as she learns the fields that interest her and the kind of work atmosphere created in different types of employment. This is key to finding job satisfaction later on in life.

Another innovative idea I propose is for schools to teach workforce skills in their classes. That way, when students graduate, they might know how to cook like students are learning at Skyline High School’s Culinary Arts, learn about computer coding like at Irma Rangel, or robotics like many of the local high schools. These are just a few examples of schools already implementing job readiness classes.

Two additional noteworthy programs in the Young Women’s Preparatory Network that are innovative deserve mentioning. The first is the Forensics program at the Young Women’s Leadership Academy at Bill Arnold in Grand Prairie, and the other is the film and digital animation class at the Young Women’s Leadership Academy in Fort Worth.

The students are gaining real-world practice experiences that excite them about science, the arts, and technology and may lay the groundwork for a future career in one of these fields.

The popularity amongst viewers for CSI shows has spread amongst the younger generation. The Grand Prairie school leaders realized this and developed a partnership with local police and crime scene unit investigators. Together, they are providing their students with a realistic, hands-on experience in the field of forensics using a mock crime scene. Teachers and CSI investigators—who happen to all be female—have created curriculum for the project-based learning that exposes students to different math and sciences including physics, biotechnology, chemistry, anatomy, and physiology. Cue the CSI show music now!

I’m a big movie buff, so if I had the opportunity to learn how to create movies in high school, I would have been the first one to sign up for digital media, animation, and graphic design. At the Young Women’s Leadership Academy in Fort Worth, there’s a green room with video and film equipment, but more importantly, they have a passionate movie aficionado, Colby Allen, who loves what he teaches. Using equipment that actual filmmakers use, including a digital animation lab, they have been able to direct, film, and edit all types of films—some of which have been entered into the Lone Star Film Festival. It’s definitely a practical skill they can use in college and beyond.

Two Fort Worth students attend the Lone Star Film Festival where some entered their work that they completed in their film and digital animation class.

Two Fort Worth students attend the Lone Star Film Festival where some entered their work that they completed in their film and digital animation class.

In these two examples, the students win. They are gaining real-world practice experiences that excite them about science, the arts, and technology and may lay the groundwork for a future career in one of these fields.

My challenge to you is to think about how you can partner with your local school in providing a meaningful internship. Beyond that, perhaps you’re being called to partner with a school to provide a hands-on class, similar to the Grand Prairie police department, that will interest this next generation and give them some practical skills they can use when they graduate from high school and then college. Through first-hand experiences with dedicated professionals and practical education in the classrooms, these students will become a more knowledgeable and employable workforce.

Dallas Innovates offers a wide range of views from regular contributors. Their opinions are their own.


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Lynn McBee is Chief Executive Officer of Young Women’s Preparatory Network. A seventh-generation Texan and Great, Great, Great, Great-Granddaughter of Emily Austin, sister to Stephen F. Austin, The (...)

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