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From classroom to workplace

Post Date:03/19/2018 9:00 am

Story originally appeared in the Spring 2018 Hometown Messenger

When Isabel Roberts sits down in her cubicle each morning, her office view is a little different than the classroom desks and whiteboard she’s used to.

While her classmates are listening to lectures, Roberts is designing marketing materials for the Shakopee Community Center, using her graphic design skills to fill needs for the City of Shakopee.

Roberts is one of two Shakopee High School seniors currently interning with the city through the high school’s Center for Advanced Professional Studies (CAPS) program. Roberts and Bradley Vilaychack spend eight hours a week at city offices, producing design materials, editing videos, writing new stories and more.

“I think this internship will help me because it will definitely set me apart from others, since I had this opportunity while still in high school,” said Roberts, who interns for the Parks and Recreation Department. “This internship will allow me to grow creatively and professionally, and I plan to use the skills I learn to help in my future.”

Intern standing next to banner at Huber ParkThis is the third year the city has partnered with the CAPS digital design program. (CAPS also offers programs in health care and business management.) The purpose of the program is to develop students' professional skills in an authentic environment. 

"Partnerships with area businesses and organizations, like the City of Shakopee, are absolutely vital to the success of our students," said Shakopee's Teaching and Learning Supervisor Ed Cox. "Through these partnerships our students are able to engage in authentic work that is not possible on site, at the high school."  

Among the projects the city has partnered with CAPS students are designing the annual Clean Up Day flyer, rebranding Shakopee Government TV and creating a new brand for Enigma Teen Center. The city also hires students as unpaid spring semester interns.

“I wanted to intern for the city because I knew that the work being done would be for the community,” said Vilaychack, who interns with the city’s communications division. “The community would benefit, and at the same time I would get the opportunity to show others my work.”

In addition to technical skills, CAPS also emphasizes professional "soft skills," like resume writing and job interviewing. Instructors want students to understand what it means to be a young professional.

Jade Tran interned with the city as a high school senior in spring 2016. 

“To this day, my internship has encouraged me to seek constant improvement in my work,” Tran said. “Instead of getting a definite grade for a project and then forgetting about it like in regular classes, I would get constant feedback on how I can enhance my designs, then continue revising until the final product was at its full potential.”

For the students, the CAPS program also introduces them to real-work settings where they are expected to show up on time, collaborate with coworkers, manage their time effectively and handle constructive criticism. 

"We are successful when students have developed a greater sense of confidence, understanding of what it takes to be successful in the world of work and have explored what career possibilities they may want to pursue," Cox said.

Four high school standing in city hall lobbyThe partnership benefits the city as much as the students, providing high-quality design products to market the city’s programs and events – at no cost.

“The quality of work these students are producing is astounding,” said City Administrator Bill Reynolds. “I am so impressed by what these high school students bring into the workplace."

Another benefit of the CAPS partnership is that it introduces young people to careers in public service, Reynolds said. One reason Vilaychack applied for the city internship was to learn more about the organization and how it operates.

The city will continue its working relationship with the high school as the Academies open in fall 2018. The city is looking to possibly team up with Scott County to sponsor the Human Services Academy. 
In February, CAPS students presented some of their work to the City Council, who overwhelmingly praised the students’ skills and the vocational partnership. Students, school leaders and city staff agree the program is a win-win for all.

"By connecting our students with professionals in the field, they are able to learn directly from [them] and see the kind of passion, work ethic and skill needed to engage in these professions," Cox said. "This level of authenticity creates inherent value for students when completing their work and greatly increases the quality of student efforts."

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