The Linked Learning approach to high school education strongly emphasizes an academically rigorous curriculum, which is aligned to the California a-g requirements and contextualized within an industry sector, or “Pathway.” These Pathways follow a continuum of Work-Based Learning experiences throughout the four years of high school. Typical Linked Learning students will graduate with the academic qualifications to enter a post-secondary education program, with the skills necessary to immediately enter a high-growth industry, and with strong (paid) work experience on their resumes, all bundled with a strong understanding of how and why their education is relevant in the 21st century.
Student develop this strong set of experiences thanks to an extensive network of support systems within Linked Learning Pathways: smaller, industry-focused academies that embody a culture of teamwork, togetherness, and ultimately, community. Teachers, counselors, industry advisors and even fellow students guide students through their pathways, opening their eyes to new opportunities and broadening their horizons for success in college, career and life.
After the end of 2014-15 school year, Linked Learning students from Sylmar to Wilmington began to venture out into the working world, gaining valuable experience, participating in exciting programs, and creating real value for their employers. Through the Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP) in the City of Los Angeles, 15 Linked Learning students from the Engineering Pathway at Bernstein High School’s STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Medicine) Academy were selected for internships with the Los Angeles Unified School District’s engineering department. The interns took on various roles in multiple divisions, from pre-construction and construction to electrical and mechanical engineering. Not only did these interns learn practical applications of their academic curriculum, they also gained an understanding of the office environment and protocol. They practiced many of the “soft skills” needed to function collaboratively in a modern work environment as well, described by intern Harrison Balmonte as the “things you can’t learn in high school.”
Students from Linked Learning dramatic arts pathways came together with Veterans in Art at the Shakespeare Center of Los Angeles to create a stunning adapted production of Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Part One. The objective was to explore the questions, “What decisions do you have to make as you grow up? And “what code of honor guides your way?” The adaptation was informed by veterans and created by talented Linked Learning students from Dorsey High School’s Digital Film and Theatrical Arts Pathway, Los Angeles High School of the Arts, the School of History and Dramatic Arts Pathway at Sotomayor Learning Academies, and the East Los Angeles Performing Arts Academy at Torres High School. This past week, they gave three powerful performances as the culmination of this groundbreaking partnership.
One of the most visible LA-based businesses supporting Linked Learning, the Southern California Gas Company, took on a team of student interns from the Environmental and Social Policy pathway at Lincoln High School. Perfectly in line with their industry pathway, these interns worked in the community outreach department, researching and devising strategies to increase awareness of low-income programs in their local communities. Their ideas will be implemented in the near future, and may also lead to extended internship opportunities. When asked about providing references for the interns in the future, Ted Humphrey, Senior Market Advisor and intern advisor said, “I would definitely recommend them, except that I want them to come back to work here!” And they will most likely be back. There is already discussion of how they might continue to intern throughout this next year.
In a bold move to harness the power of internships from within, the LAUSD Linked Learning Office created a summer multimedia communications internship, providing students with an opportunity to learn advanced videography while promoting Linked Learning activities within the District. Teams of Linked Learning interns from Hollywood High School’s New Media Academy, the School of Global Media Arts at Miguel Contreras Learning Academies, as well as the School for Visual Arts and Humanities, spent over four weeks documenting the student experience in local internships and Linked Learning Summer Bridge programs, which usher rising freshmen into high school. Acting as a professional video crew, each group gathered footage, filmed interviews, took photographs and fully edited a short documentary film about each of these Linked Learning activities. Their results – a set of professional videos – have already been incorporated into Linked Learning communications, helping viewers to simultaneously learn about this educational ‘movement’ and see its results in action.
The Linked Learning Office also partnered with the L.A. Trust for Children’s Health to train students in creating outreach materials to promote 14 community health centers located on LAUSD campuses. Students from Medical and Health Sciences pathways worked alongside students from New Media pathways to create brochures, surveys, a patient bill of rights, and a stunning set of engaging public service announcements about pressing community health issues.
Many of the employers and supervisors of these interns were surprised by the quality work these interns displayed, from their creativity to their work ethic. “This is a testament to the power of Linked Learning how it harnesses the potential within all of our students,” said Soliman about the success of this year’s internship programs. “This year we had hundreds. Next year, thousands,” she exclaimed.