PUSD Pathways Pilots Virtual Internship Model

Since the closing of schools in March due to COVID-19, the Porterville Unified School District Pathways program implemented a new model of internships: virtual internships from home. 

“Internships are a key component of the Pathways and Linked Learning model,” PUSD Director of Student Pathways Cynthia Brown said. “Now we are taking it virtual. This experience for students provides an opportunity to work alongside business professionals and expand students’ horizons.” 

The PUSD Pathways Work-Based Learning team and staff worked with Nepris, a company that connects industry partners to classrooms, to devise a virtual internship program that would allow Pathways students to continue to work with business partners safely from home. A 2 ½ week virtual internship model was created, using various touchpoints and check-ins, that connected students with partners and companies across the United States, and helped empower the future of our students here in our community. 

This virtual model has never been done before, at least on this scale, here in Porterville. And this was a completely new undertaking for Nepris as well. PUSD Pathways focused on three industries that tend to have a more limited pool of industry internship partners for students in the local area: Performing Arts, Engineering, and Multimedia/Technology. Over 50 pathways students participated in this pilot system through Nepris. 

The Academy of Performing Arts teamed up with Renee Chambers Liciaga, who is a choreographer, stage director and coach based out of Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Students worked on creative responses to COVID-19 in the performing arts industry, such as creating models for theme parks to reopen safely and a way to hold the Tony Awards virtually. Students also got a live virtual behind the scenes tour of a theatre in Philadelphia. 

“Renee showed me how there are so many people that work just to have one Broadway show work: makeup artists, costume designers, orchestra members,” Harmony Magnet Academy APA (Academy of Performing Arts) Pathway student Jocelyn Torres said. “It’s not all about the performers, but what is happening behind the scenes.” 

Harmony Magnet Academy AOE (Academy of Engineering) students teamed up with Verizon Wireless and their Innovative Learning division. Students developed creative concepts to three real-world challenges in Verizon’s engineering department currently being affected by COVID-19. 

“Being able to meet and speak with Verizon employees over Zoom was a unique

Experience,” HMA AOE (Academy of Engineering) student Taylor Simonich said. “We had actual people teaching us from their experience and explaining what their jobs were like. Most of them were not from California, so we were getting diverse perspectives from people all across America.” 

The last virtual internship piloted this summer, with the Monache High School Multimedia and Technology Academy (MTA), teamed up with the CEO of Rocket Mind Media, Dr. Rod Berger, who is based out of Nashville, Tennessee. Students explored creating podcasts and various techniques around recording, preparing, and interviewing people, particularly when done from a distance. They worked collaboratively to create a podcast, artwork, and a media plan to promote the podcast channel. 

"Participating in a virtual internship was a superior experience,” Monache High MTA student Daniel Vigil said. “It is simple to quickly transition from meetings to a workstation environment while staying in the same seat." 

"It was a pleasure and more enjoyable from this side of the table seeing and working with our future talent,” Verizon Director of Core Network Engineering Arash Shabandaz said. “It was very impressive to me how the young minds were able to contribute such fantastic ideas in a short amount of time and their knowledge within the technology space was impressive as well. Thank you for letting us be a part of the experience.” 

PUSD Pathways is currently working on plans to continue working with Nepris to have more virtual internships during the fall semester.

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