Each year, Leander ISD has their annual COOL Week (Career Opportunities On Location) for high school seniors throughout the district, which allows students to spend the week working as interns at various locations. These internships give students the opportunity to work at places in different fields that that they may be interested in, shadow professionals and get job experience and receive tips on how to handle interviews and write resumes. From NASA to police departments to hospitals to theaters, COOL Week offers internship opportunities for almost any career path.
Austin Scottish Rite Theater
The Austin Scottish Rite Theater was originally a German Opera House and has been around for hundreds of years, putting on performances for the people of the Austin community to enjoy. LISD students Zachariah Pace from Rouse High School and Jessica Minnie from Vista Ridge High School went to the Austin Scottish Rite Theater for their COOL Week internship to get experience in backstage set and costume design for the play “Puff the Magic Dragon.”
“Up on our main stage we have a beautiful glittering set,” on-site coordinator Susan Todd said. “That’s the imaginary fantasy land of ‘Puff the Magic Dragon’ but on the smaller stage is a household setting and I wanted that to look very sixties. I wanted that to really read and it didn’t, it ended up kind of looking like a seventies basement as my friend said, so the challenge that I’ve thrown to Zachariah and Jessie for Cool Week is to help us make this look like it’s really 1960s.”
Minnie said that costume design has been a hobby of hers for about two and a half years. For Cool Week she was put in charge of redesigning the costumes for Puff the Magic Dragon.
For Minnie, she wants to go to school to become a costume designer and also become certified in special effects makeup. “ Ideally I’d like to work at a production company downtown Austin and work there.”
“I’ve worked on costumes for shows before for the school even though I’m not in theatre and I heard a lot of ‘This is exactly what I want and if you don’t like it too bad,’ but with this it’s been a lot more freedom,” Minnie said. “It’s a really fun show because it’s sixties and it’s so colorful and wild, so I’ve been able to get to use all these cool colors and let loose and have fun with it.”
Pace has been part of the theater program since seventh grade and during COOL Week he is focusing on choosing fabrics, paint, and wall designs to rebuild the side stage.
“[I enjoy] embodying the show and embracing it basically, so she [Todd] has an idea and we get to make the idea happen,” Pace said. “So we’re making it come to life and grow from something that was an idea. In life I want to pursue theatre as well as other things with it, like a drama therapist, which is theatre incorporated with therapy, so I’m getting the theatre and social work background.”
A group of 10 students from Cedar Park, Vandegrift, Leander, Rouse and Vista Ridge High Schools interned at Daybreak Games, a company that engineers mostly Massive Multiplayer Online (MMO) games such as World of Warcraft and DC Universe.
“I’m a computer programmer here at Daybreak and I’m in charge of what we call our tools which is like our internal support team, so I don’t really make the actual video game that people play,” on site coordinator Oscar Sweatman said. “I make it easier for these guys to make video games so if you imagine making video games as building a house, I’m the guy that makes the hammer and the nails and the drills and stuff like that.”
The programming process involves creating the concept of the game and how it will bring a profit, creating the appearance of the game, and programming
“Programmers make the game work, artists draw everything, and designers say, ‘Hey, we need this to do this,’” Vista Ridge High School student Jared Irwin said “It’s very competitive. For example, just in cool week we had eight programmers and two designers and two artists. So you need more people doing different stuff they’re not used to.”
The students were given a tour around the facility and then planned and created their own video game throughout the week.
“There’s a lot of really creative people in the same room giving out ideas,” Rouse High school student Ashlyn Ross said. “Interacting with each other and sharing experiences with people that you can get along with is always really fun.”
Ross said that she is considering going into video game or animation, while Irwin said he plans to major in programming at college.
“I know everyone is like, ‘Oh, you just sit at a computer and write tons of lines of code,’ but for me it’s fun. It’s like the problem solving and all the glitches is really fun for me.”
Leander Police Department
Having the aspirations of pursuing a career in the criminal justice department, seven high school seniors chose to spend their cool week at the Leander Police Department with Sergeant Helen Garrett. Throughout the week the students experienced many different activities and drills that the police officers experience on a daily basis. They went through self defense drills and car searches as well as traffic stops.
“Personally I’ve found the car searches to be the most exciting,” Shannon Brand said. “we were able to find a lot of stuff that I’ve never even thought could be in these places hidden in cars and it was interesting to be able to find all the little hiding places in different departments of a car.”
Kayla Chargois was interested in working with crime victims and so she thought it would be a good experience to see the law enforcement side of crime.
“To be honest I liked being able to interact with the cops because I had a different perception of them then I do now,” Chargois said. “They’re all really cool and I had always thought that cops were really scary, but I enjoyed hanging out with them.”
Sergeant Garrett was able to spend the week with the students, helping them better understand the career field.
“I enjoy interacting with them,” Sergeant Garrett said. “I’m trying to give them a fresh idea of what law enforcement is and get rid of some stereotypes, that kind of thing.”
Canine Rehabilitation and Conditioning Center
The Canine Rehabilitation and Conditioning Center is a facility where mostly older dogs come in for physical therapy to help enrich their lives. Sandra Hudson is the only doctor in the facility and she works with an average of about 25 dogs per day.
“I got into it, I kind of fell into it a little bit,” Hudson said. “I was showing a dog and she needed knee surgery. I knew that I had to get her back into the ring so I developed a rehab program and I worked with A&M and they said you know what this is going to work and so that’s this got started so I’ve been doing this for a long time.”
Having had this profession for quite some time, Hudson fell in love with not only the animals but the job as well. She said that she loved being able to change and better the lives of pets and their owners.
“What I love best is being able to help an owner or help a dog enrich their lives.” Hudson said. “I don’t just look at fixing them but changing how they look at their dog especially the senior dogs people forget how much their dog learns because they’ve been around them for 15 years so if I can reeducate them that your dog wants to do things with you wants to learn new things just adjust your exercises so I like that.”
Student Audrey Graham from Rouse High School was given the opportunity to work alongside Hudson for COOL Week, helping guide the dogs through their daily exercises and learning about their health.
“Learning different diseases these dogs have [has been the most helpful thing I’ve learned] a lot of that stuff is similar throughout animals and humans,” Graham said. “All the way down to muscle and bones and nerves it’s all the same, the rehab is more focusing on, not so much as surgery and making them better but more like enhancing their muscles and helping them walk, stuff like that.”
Although Graham wants to be a large animal vet, the experience of cool week has helped shaped her thoughts for the future and what kind of a profession she would like to acquire.
“I want to go into large animal vet actually like rehabilitation is something a lot of racehorses use which is kind of what I’m thinking about doing ever since I came here I kind of want to do it but with horses but this is definitely a good experience,” Graham said.
DoubleTree Hotel Austin- Culinary
Madison Davis from Cedar Park High School and Melanie Ramos from Rouse High School both spend Cool Week working in the kitchen at the DoubleTree Hotel in Austin.
“We’ve been doing prep for banquets and stations for breakfast,” Ramos said. “They like to prep for banquets a day ahead. Recently we did an omelet station for the rugby team.”
Both Davis and Ramos are in the Cedar Park culinary program, though Ramos is from Rouse High School. Ramos said that she has had a passion for food ever since she was little.
“When I look at food it’s like art to me,” Ramos said. “It’s just magical what you can do with food. I think desserts should come first since it’s so sweet and romantic. All the flavors are just there and it’s so seducing.”
On the other hand, Davis said that when she was younger she was thinking about a career in the film industry, not culinary.
“When I was younger I didn’t know this was what I wanted to do,” Davis said. “But when I was picking classes, I thought, ‘Oh, you know, culinary sounds fun. You’re not at a desk all day,’ and through the class I learned that ‘Wow, I could make a job out of this and it’s actually a really fun job.’”
Ramos plans on attending the University of Alaska and majoring in hospitality and restaurant management.
“I really want to own my own restaurant and be in charge of everything,” Ramos said. “When you’re a hospitality manager, everyone reports to you, so the executive chef, the beverage manager, you’re in charge of all of them.”
Davis has applied to the Culinary Institute of America, but is still on the fence on whether to go or not. In the meantime, she is looking into a job at Travaasa’s Hotel and Resort
“It pays really well, especially coming out of high school, so I might just do that for a while,” Davis said. “I’d like to pursue other things as well. I’ve been thinking about getting my own food truck, so there’s a lot of possibilities in this industry.”