“What do you want to be when you grow up?” is a question that most high school seniors have faced. But for today’s students, this question takes on a whole new light. No longer allowed to get by with frivolous answers such as “princess” or “president,” students face a world of daunting decisions.
When the sky is quite literally the limit, how can a 17-year old possibly choose the path of their future? For Leander ISD students, there is help in the form of Career Opportunities on Location — or COOL Week — which is a job shadowing program with a simple goal: Allow high school students to gain experience in their desired field of employment.
“I’ve seen so much impact on both students and business partners,” district coordinator Pat Lopez said of COOL week, explaining that through this one-of-a-kind program, seniors can build their résumés and consider their futures in a much more realistic way than ever before.
Students from each of the six schools in LISD who participate in COOL Week are able to intern at businesses within their desired field of study. Vista Ridge HS senior Victoria Vives is working with the Georgetown Palace, a theater in Georgetown, Texas. But she’s not speaking in Shakespearean, or reveling in the glitz and glam of the stage lights. No, dressed in a t-shirt and with shoes covered in sawdust, Tori is helping to create the set for the Palace’s upcoming production of “Catch Me If You Can.”
Intending to major in theatre technology, Tori is excited about “getting a lot of good tips” about aspects of her career field she hasn’t previously delved into. She specifically noted building and designing sets.
Guided by Justin Dam, Georgetown Palaces’ assistant technical director, Tori has a rare opportunity for hands-on experience in the workplace, surrounded by professionals in her chosen field of interest.
“It’s experience that will very much shine on a résumé… You can talk about doing something when you graduate or after college all you want,” said Dam, but if you don’t go out and do it, that’s all it is: talk.”
Dam said the COOL Week program helps students turn this talk into action, giving them the opportunity to decide what they truly want to do in the future.
On Seventh Street in downtown Austin, another group of students is also working behind the scenes. However, they aren’t building with wood planks and iron nails like Tori, but with code and software.
Chris Delvizis of Upskill, a technology startup based in Austin, finds himself “impressed with the students… they [already] have good experience in software development.”
Which is a good thing, as this group of students is working with Upskill to build new augmented reality software.
Or… maybe not building it.
“Currently we are trying to break them,” said Cedar Park HS student Ethan Glass, referencing the smart-glasses on which he, as well as Cedar Park and Vista Ridge students Alden Yi and Caroline Mejia, are performing “quality assurance testing.”
These students will also be sitting in on meetings with a engineers with a variety of job functions in order to experience a “day in the life” of what it’s like to actually be a software engineer.
LISD created the COOL Week program to completely unique among all the other other career-learning programs in the area, according to LISD program coordinator Pat Lopez.
During COOL Week, students aren’t merely following their leaders around, but are given real, concrete tasks to complete. These tasks are invaluable in showing seniors “the practical applications of [their] major after college,” as Caroline Mejia describes it. “This kind of work is something these students don’t have access to anywhere else, and it will help guide them through the rest of their lives.”