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Connecting My Pathway With Real Life Experiences

May 26, 2014

By: Janine Goetzen

Before senior year, I had never had a job—not even babysitting or mowing lawns. I figured that an internship would be a great place to start, so in the early fall I decided to apply to a couple of them. The internship with linked learning was a great way to not only get my feet wet in the world of jobs, but also provided an opportunity to learn.

My internship was the first time I was ever being paid to work, and with that came an unparalleled experience of responsibility. It wasn’t like in class, where while I feel responsible for my grade; it’s not like I’m getting paid to pay attention. In the internship, I felt like I needed to be responsible because someone was depending on me to get work done. It was a fantastic way to gain work experience while not necessarily “working” in a traditional sense, since all I did was remote.

Even so, I think that the greatest gift that my internship with linked learning gave me was the ability to understand what I was doing in school and why. Even though I had completed three years of high school in a pathway school by the time I started with linked learning, I never truly understood what that entailed. Yes, I knew that my school was different—we had year-long projects and all of my electives were focused on digital media. But I thought that was just some strange quirk of my school.

I decided long ago that I didn’t want to pursue digital media as a career. Though that is my school’s pathway, it just didn’t seem like something I could see myself doing for the rest of my life. I really just see it as a hobby or a way to make extra cash. I want to go to college and study sociology, not design websites.

It became clear to me though that despite not wanting to pursue digital media specifically, the kind of work I was doing in school was still preparing me for college or a job. Through linked learning, I finally understood the purpose of such a pathway. All of those projects and presentations I did throughout high school took on a whole new meaning. Rather than being tailored to show off our digital design prowess, they were made to help me and my classmates experience real-life situations—working in teams, giving presentations, meeting deadlines, etc.

Because I was so immersed in the pathway system with linked learning, I had a chance to explore all of that more in-depth. Not only did I get to learn about my own pathway, but about other people’s. What struck me the most was how similar they all were, not how different. This was incredibly important to me in understanding my school as a whole—it’s one large school separated into four smaller schools, each with its own separate pathway. Mine was digital media, but there was also an engineering school, a business school, and a science school at Kearny. They all seemed radically different until linked learning.

I finally understood that even though on the surface we seemed different, the foundation for what we were doing stayed the same. The goal of all of the pathways was not to specifically lead students into that career field, but to prepare them for any kind of career in the future and provide them with the necessary skills to succeed. It also presented opportunities for real experience in the pathway’s field, which was cool. Underneath it all, they had the same basic idea.

For me, that was a relief. Otherwise, I would have kept thinking—what if I went to a school with a social justice pathway instead, like one of my co-interns? Maybe that would have prepared me better? But that sort of thinking was unnecessary. Perhaps I would have gained more specific knowledge about social issues, but the underlying skills and experiences that I would have gotten would be the same.

I still plan to pursue a degree in sociology. That hasn’t quite changed much over the course of the last few years. But because of linked learning, I have a more nuanced understanding of what exactly I want to do with that degree. This is because of the final lesson that my internship taught me—social media is influential. At first, I couldn’t believe that I was being paid real money just to blog. As the internship went on, I saw the real power of social media. That power is something that I want to harness in whatever job I have in the future, whether it be raising awareness of a cause through Twitter or starting an e-mail letter writing campaign.

Overall, the things that my internship with linked learning has taught me—about my school’s pathway and how it has influenced me, about my future career goals and what I want to do after college, and about myself in general—are incredibly valuable, and I’m glad to have been a part of an internship that allowed me to learn about myself.