For Connor Bowen, as for many other students at Kenowa Hills Pathways High School, her first job will also earn her school credit.
Sixteen students, including Bowen, will have the opportunity to participate in the district’s first extended job shadow project this year.
“I’ve never had a job before,” Connor said. “It’s really teaching me about how to work with people and manage a store. It’s also helping me to see what I can expect from a job in the future.”
Connor is interning at Designing Dreams floral and tuxedo shop in Standale, where she cleans, organizes, unpacks and generally helps out. After she gets the hang of how the store works, she’ll have a chance to create floral arrangements.
“I am interested in art,” said Connor, who plans to attend Kendall College of Art and Design. “I’m always drawing and focusing on my artwork. This is a different kind of art that I also enjoy.
“This internship is helping me learn a lot about what I want to do after graduation,” she added. “I knew what I wanted to do in some sense, but this is helping me pin it down.”
Forging the Path
Program director Jared Herron makes sure there is an emphasis on career and employability skills in Pathways’ curriculum. All students have to have one credit of employable skills in order to meet their graduation requirements.
“One of our goals is for students to have a path beyond getting their high school diploma and let that drive the academic part of graduating,” Herron said.
The first part of Pathways’ program focuses on resumes and interview skills, the second homes in on real-life application.
“We felt that rather than trying to teach time management, organization skills and collaboration only in the classroom, it’s more important for these students to experience it,” Herron said. “When you’re experiencing the learning, you are going to grasp that concept far better.”
Connecting with Community
Most of the program’s business partners came from community connections and alumni support, Herron said, adding, “We work hard to make sure that the student and the company are a perfect match.”
Sixteen students currently have internships across the Grand Rapids community; Herron expects to see 30 by year’s end.
“Every business we have gone to has welcomed us with open arms and they have been very supportive,” he said. “The companies have really embraced and enjoyed having a student job shadow and learn from them.”
Times for Reflection
After students return from their internships, they journal about what skills they used at their job. Journal entries are used for Friday reflection periods where students have roundtable discussions regarding the skills they have learned.
At the end of the semester, students will make presentations to their parents, employers and instructors about their internship.
Taylor Paul, junior, interns at the Kent District Library branch in Walker.
“I scan and shelve books, input data and help with kid days at the library,” Taylor said.
She said she values most the opportunity to work in an office or commercial enterprise.
“I’ve only helped my dad with his construction company so I’ve never really worked somewhere like this,” she said. “I want to go into the medical field so this is helping me work on my people skills and organizational skills.”
Ethan Gardner, junior, interns at Sobie Meats.
“These are skills that are incredibly beneficial to me with my desire to be in law enforcement and eventually owning my own food businesses, Ethan said. “Along with those skills comes increasing my ability to work with different people and being able to handle different types of personalities.”
Tim Sobie, with Sobie Meats agrees.
“I am a firm believer of the program as well,” he said. “I definitely support it and want to strongly encourage to continue it so kids have a chance to be exposed to the work environment and learn good work skills to help carry them through life no matter what career path they follow.”
In years to come, Herron hopes the program will expand to the medical field and other more specific career paths.
“We see great things to come for this program,” he said. “We’ve had great success in the first year and I expect the same to follow in the future.”