Getting career-ready with COOL Week

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Next Monday, while most LISD students are sleeping in and enjoying a school holiday, hundreds of our 12th-graders will be punching the clock at their new workplace for the week. These students represent our 2017 Class of COOL (Career Opportunities on Location) Week participants. COOL Week, which runs Feb. 6-10, is a structured, work-based experience for our graduating seniors to spend time on-site in their career of interest. Essentially, it works as a mini-internship for our students.

We have partnered with upward of 150 businesses and organizations this year, with which we have matched some 380 students from all of our five high schools with seniors. Our partners include local police and fire departments; video game companies; engineering, manufacturing and actuary firms; sister schools in Austin and Round Rock ISDs; hospitals, dentists, veterinarians and optometrists; hotels and restaurants; speech and occupational therapists, and so on. Some of our students will get to go behind the scenes in the Austin City Limits studio, the office of the Sergeant at Arms in the Texas Senate, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, the Inks Lake Dam Fish Hatchery and the SXSW Conference & Festivals headquarters. 

And the list does not end in the greater Austin area. We will also have students in the Houston area touring NASA facilities, working with aerospace engineers and astronauts. Thanks to some of our families’ personal contacts, a few of our students are even representing LISD out of state, like in Arizona to work with the Scottsdale police detectives, or as far as England to work on an engineering project in a manufacturing facility.

One of my favorite stories from COOL Week has come from Cedar Park High School graduate Erica Stec. Her experiences as a COOL Week participant made such an impact on her that years later, after going to work for a digital advertising firm in downtown Austin, Erica reached back out to us to see how her company could become a business partner. In fact, one of the departments in her company that will host LISD students next week is led by yet another COOL Week alum! I love that our students are not only going on to become leaders in their industries, but remain dedicated to remembering how they got there and reaching a hand out to help mentor those who are following in their footsteps. 

While each business host will guide its students through different activities, many will include valuable opportunities like practice job interviews, resume critiques, job shadowing, field experience, completing special projects and oral presentations. During COOL Week, our goal is for students to have a tangible experience seeing classroom principles applied in the workforce; to apply skills like teamwork, critical thinking, problem solving and communication; to learn how specific occupations are performed and the education and training needed to do so; and to better determine if this is a career they would like to further pursue. 

This is our 21st year offering this program, which continues to be one of our most popular College and Career Pathways initiatives for a reason—it provides our students an opportunity to spend time inside an industry and experience their day-to-day life before they commit to pursuing that career in their post-secondary life. We often say that college is an expensive place for students to discover what they want to be when they grow up, or worse yet, to commit to a career path only to realize after earning their degree that he or she has no interest in that career. Utilizing COOL Week to discover what they may not want to pursue can often be just as valuable as confirming their passion for an industry.

We wish the best of luck to our Class of 2017 COOL Week participants, and we look forward to hearing about all they were able to do and learn next week. I would also like to thank each of our campus College & Career Transition Coordinators and staff who have tirelessly orchestrated this event, and I would especially thank our many industry partners who are dedicating so much of their valuable time to helping guide our rising generation realize their bright future. If your organization is interested in becoming a COOL Week partner for 2018, please contact pat.lopez@leanderisd.org

 

 

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