DHS introduces new internship opportunity

Ella Fixsen, News Editor

With new demand for career-specific courses at De Soto High School, many additional classes have been implemented in the DHS course list for the 2020-21 school year. One of these new options will be a project management internship with Cerner. This is an opportunity that has never been offered at DHS before. 

 “[Cerner is] looking for interns that are interested in computer science, coding and things like that to work with them,”  DHS counselor Christine Johns said.

The internship is fairly new to the district, but was made possible through a grant specifically provided for opportunities like this. 

“Our district was awarded a Work-Based Learning (WBL) Grant in January 2020 to assist us with forming a district-wide program for students interested in internships,” said Cindy Swartz, USD 232 Coordinator of Career, Technical and Virtual Programs. “We are still forming the details of this program.”

While many DHS students may be interested in the opportunity, the internship requires commitment, strict scheduling guidelines and personal transportation. This is the main reason why the internship is only offered to juniors and seniors. 

“It is during the second semester of the school year and would be half of the day every day. So you would be here for your four core courses and you would be at Cerner the rest of the afternoon,” Johns said. “Students who are interested in it need to have most of their graduation credit requirements taken care of.”

Even though the internship will be available for all juniors and seniors, those who have formerly shown high levels of commitment and dedication will have the highest probability of being chosen. 

“They [Cerner] are not necessarily going to look at attendance, but Cerner is definitely a huge company. They have a lot of demands from their employees,” Johns said. “It would have to be somebody who is absolutely committed to going everyday. You couldn’t just not go.” 

So far, there is not a definite number of students who will be selected for the internship. However, candidates will be evaluated before being chosen to participate. 

“Students will be selected based on the criteria decided by the WBL team, which is still being formed,” Swartz said. “This criteria, as well as how many WBL coordinators are available to supervise, will help us determine the max number of students.”

Although the internship will not begin until 2021, Johns and other counselors want to have a glimpse of which students are interested with plenty of time ahead of next school year. 

“We’re asking any student who is interested to let their counselor know, and we’re keeping a spreadsheet of everybody who’s told us that they’re interested,” Johns said. “Once we get more information, whether that’s a meeting or an application, we’ll pass that on to the students and let them know. We have until next week to get that list of names together, so I would assume around the first of March is when we’ll really be sharing more information about it.”

The push to add internship opportunities for high school students is not only seen at DHS, but multiple high schools across the state of Kansas. 

“The state of Kansas is now doing this thing called a postsecondary success initiative, which is an initiative to get kids to the point where they have a pretty good idea of what they want to do and have a plan in place,” Johns said. “Part of that initiative is that if a kid leaves De Soto High School and enrolls in classes at a postsecondary institution, whether it’s a community college or a four year, the state is holding high schools more accountable to making sure that they [students] enroll in school and stay in school.”

Another reason for this addition has to do with student interest and success in general. Most students at DHS have taken classes that fulfil their interests, but many have not had these career-specific options. 

“These kids get tired of being in school all day every day, and we hear it time and time again when a senior is enrolling,” Johns said. “Kids always say ‘all I need is my government, my math and my English, what else am I going to take? Why can’t I do something that’s going to be more valuable to me in trying to figure out if this is what I really want to do?’ What better way to do that than by getting an internship somewhere.”

Fortunately, DHS has been working to implement new career-based courses, including the project based management internship, into the curriculum for the benefit of the students themselves. 

“New partnerships with Johnson County and KCK Tech are all about keeping kids here for their core classes, but getting them out so that they can get those experiences,” Johns said. “Those classes are free while you’re in high school, so why not figure that out now instead having to go through a similar course after high school and paying $700 and then realizing you don’t want to do it.”

Junior Emma Gilliland has been interested in the internship ever since it was introduced to her. She feels that it can give her an advantage when it comes to her future. 

“I hope to decide if I truly like project management or not. If I end up not liking it, it’s totally okay because at least I’ll know that now instead of in college,” Gilliland said. “We are a smaller school, so it’s nice to still receive opportunities through big companies like Cerner. I also think it’s helpful because it can expose students to new career paths they could really enjoy.”

Overall, students, staff members and district members are looking forward to the implementation of the project management internship and feel that it will provide many benefits to DHS. 

“This opportunity will help students in a number of ways,” Swartz said. “Just a few of the benefits that students will learn are real world experiences, time management, leadership and a chance to try out a profession before spending thousands of dollars on an education that takes them nowhere.”