As a sophomore in college, I doubt many people my age will reminisce on their high school days, especially the school portion of that. I’m sure everyone remembers their friends, the homecoming dances, the football games, and other social aspects of those four years. However, something that stood out from my high school experience was what they did to make me more career ready after getting my diploma.
I went to a smaller charter high school in Greeley that was originally connected to the University of Northern Colorado years and years ago. They then relocated to another building and made the school K-12, where I stayed throughout my entire primary education. University (the name of the high school) had decent sports, enough club offerings, and a couple of AP classes that made the high school known around the district. What it also had that most didn’t know about was this extra high school curriculum a part of your classes that you had to complete to graduate.
There are four parts to this separate curriculum: 50 hours of community service, three job shadows that total to 12 hours, a 50-hour internship, and a 30-hour senior project.
The 50 hours of community service were pretty self-explanatory. You could do virtually anything as long as you got it signed off, which had its upsides for the students and its downsides for the community (as most high schoolers will just have their parents or other friends sign off).
After that was completed, you complete three job shadows in three different professions, each having to last at least four hours long. I especially enjoyed doing this part of the requirements since I got to miss school to see what other jobs were like. I shadowed a journalist, a GIS technician, and a real estate agent, which were all very valuable experiences.
Once the job shadows were completed, the next step was doing an internship, preferably in a career you were interested in. I interned as a marketing media assistant with a non-profit organization, but others could simply work at their parent’s companies. Basically, you just had to do a casual work experience that wasn’t paid or a more professional internship that could be paid.
Lastly, everyone had to complete a senior project. Most people did food drives or asked for donations for different charities, while others took a more creative approach to it. For my senior project, I wrote an entire play and published it to my friends and family, along with the school library.
Depending on who you are, the above graduation requirements may seem like a lot to do in high school or something that can be completed easily. Either way, everyone hated it. Those that never did anything complained about having to do something and those that did everything complained that they didn’t have enough time. Even I, the one writing about how influential this was, hated doing it. No other high school had to do these requirements, and we weren’t even a private school. At the time, it seemed like a cruel punishment.
Looking back now, doing those job shadows helped me figure out what I was interested in and what I wasn’t, and it let me see what someone does in their day to day job. The internship I got was the most valuable experience of high school, and my senior project let me tap into my passions and create something that could be shared to anyone. The little skills of having to create cover letters, resumes, do interviews, and more came naturally with these graduation requirements, which have been better honed throughout college. Most of all, having dedicated time to put effort into something I was passionate about made me a lot happier in senior year. I never thought I’d write a play, but those requirements ‘forced’ me to do it.
I don’t know if more high schools should have the requirements that I did, since the graduation rate would probably plummet at most schools (again, no high schooler wants to do extra work, especially when they don’t have a career path in mind and are simply trying not to fail classes). That being said, if you are someone who wants to get an extra leg up even in college, doing a job shadow in a field you’re interested in and finding internships is super helpful for getting a permanent job later on.
Along with that, finding the time to do something you love is so important, always. It helps keep you sane in trying times, and I’m really thankful that my high school was able to teach me that.