The importance of mentors for helping youth explore their interests, develop their skills, and ultimately find educational, career and life success is well founded. We know this. The notion that students benefit by “leaving to learn” is the lifeblood of Big Picture Learning’s ideology. One of the key elements of this approach is Learning Through Internships (LTIs), which allow students to study in the real world, under the tutelage of a member of their local community who works in a career field similar to their interests.
Our schools passionately believe that there is no better way to learn than by getting their students out of school and into immersing them the local community. However, this passion doesn’t make the exercise of actually seeking out opportunities, recruiting mentors, and scaffolding internship experiences any easier. Nor does it provide a mechanism for gauging the true impact and value of those experiences.
So we’ve launched ImBlaze, an internship management platform for schools, districts, states and workforce development systems ready to embrace the world as classroom. ImBlaze is designed to:
Student agency should drive the internship search process. Learning is less engaging and student/mentor relationships are less authentic when students are assigned to internships that may or may not match their interests. Students should be invited to search for opportunities related to their passions, and should be supported by educators as they learn to initiate and pursue their own internships.
A vibrant and authentic internship program is developed by the school leveraging the power of its community. Students and families drive the creation of a wide variety of internship opportunities through their personal, professional, and social networks. ImBlaze gives students the power to add their own prospects to a school’s growing database of internship opportunities, to be built and acted upon by students from future academic classes.
An adult coordinator (whether a teacher, advisor, school support staff member, etc.) is a crucial component of this work. While student interests and agency are the driving force behind internship selection, an adult partner ensures the process runs most efficiently, that opportunities are aligned with students’ goals, that community relationships are cultivated, and that the system is strengthened over time.