This school year, over 30 students at Rome High are being exposed to the ins and outs of the working world, building a foundation for the careers they may one day be a part of under a revitalized program for work-based learning.
During the last two periods of the school day, participating juniors and seniors who are hand selected through an application process head out to jobs in their career of interest each day of the school week, said Tim Slater, work-based learning coordinator for the school. It’s an opportunity afforded to those who have already completed the classes of their chosen pathway, and now take what they learned in the classroom and expand upon it in a real-working environment, whether it be in a downtown business, a hospital or a church.
When Slater took over the job this summer — this is his first year at Rome High — there were only eight students in the program. So, one of his first tasks was to get more of them involved and placed in internships.
Those who participate in the experience are elite, said Slater, they are some of the best students at the school, self-motivated and driven. He tells them that the career they intern in doesn’t have to be their set-in-stone pursuit for the rest of their lives — it can either teach them what they like or what they don’t like, because sometimes, the best way to know is to do. It adds another layer of realism, he said.
High schoolers may get the opportunity through a part-time job to be exposed to a working environment, such as a fast-food restaurant. But with work-based learning, students are put in a position to learn about careers, not just jobs. Slater has one student who shadows a cardiothoracic surgeon at Floyd Medical Center, and two who intern at a local church due to the interest in ministerial work.
But the student that Slater points to as a unique example of what the program can do is 17-year-old Allison Russo-Alesi, who runs Posh Upscale Consignment on Broad Street, he said. She can take what she learns from her pathway courses and implement strategies or ideas that can have a direct business impact.
Through its college and career academy, Floyd County Schools has offered work-based learning opportunities for over 15 years, said Wright Edge, coordinator of the program. There are about 53 students in the program this year — there were over 100 last year — but more could get involved as students hear about what they can do. With Floyd County being such a healthcare hub, the majority of internships involve FCS students working in the healthcare field, and much of what they do is observe or help clean up a room — they don’t do anything invasive.
CCA students don’t go to their internships every day, Edge said, as the weekly schedule at the school is segmented into “A” days and “B” days, where one day they will take their math and science courses and the next will be out at the job site, learning not only skills related to a career, but life as well. Those interning tend to be seniors who have a more open schedule and have completed their required pathway courses.
This year’s crop of work-based learners — who too have to go through an application process and interviews with employers — haven’t started in their internships yet, as Edge takes the first month or so to prepare students for what they will be heading into, and what they are required to do for assignments.
Students in both programs are evaluated over the course of their internships by their supervisors at the place they work, and assignments include keeping track of their schedule and hours. They also must complete reflections on their experiences. The internships are made possible through partnerships with area businesses. Some students in both programs get paid for their interning time and others don’t, but it’s something they know going in.