This summer, rising seniors at Episcopal School of Dallas will be going to court, producing films in Austin, developing software, and scrubbing up to observe intricate hand surgeries.
These first tastes of what might be future careers are the product of the ESD WORX internship program, a volunteer effort of ESD’s Dads Partnership and Alumni Association that deploys students to a wide range of fields, offering them hands-on career experience before they apply to college – a rare opportunity for high school students.
“This program gives students a crystal ball,” said Dads Partnership member Robert Shive. “It gives them an idea of what possibilities are.”
WORX is the brainchild of Shive, who built the program in 2012 as a way for students to tap into a huge resource: ESD parents.
The parent and alumni network responded enthusiastically to Shive’s requests for taking on interns. Now with 50 partnering companies (through the parents) and 60 participating students, WORX has become an integral element of ESD’s college guidance program.
Chris Gonzales, ESD director of college guidance, said that in the last 10 to 15 years, colleges have become more demanding, and are requiring students to choose majors earlier. Elite, competitive colleges will ask when you apply: “You have chosen this major: Why? … Why do you want to study it, and why do you want to study it here.”
“This is a great reason why the ESD WORX program exists,” Gonzales said, because it gives students the tools to answer these questions. The experiences students have as interns can also strengthen their college essays with impressive real-world experience to draw on; boost their resumes; and sometimes allow for professional recommendations, Gonzales said.
However, as Julie Clardy, communications director at ESD – whose department takes on interns every summer – pointed out: “It shouldn’t be just a means to an end to get into college. We try to get away from that. This will help you wherever you go.”
In order to be placed at an internship, students must go through a hiring process. They provide written applications and teacher recommendations, and are grilled in a 30-minute interview conducted by Dads Partnership members and parents who will be considering the students for “hire”.
“Every school has the good old boy network,” Shive said, “but this is an official program.”
Dr. Megan Wood, an orthopedic hand surgeon, is taking on three interns in her third summer as a WORX partner. She appreciates being connected through an official channel.
“Your parents might not know another parent enough to pick up the phone and say, ‘hey can my kid shadow you?’ But having the program in place opens the door and levels the playing field,” she said.
Since its inception, the program has had 200 students pass through; some of these students, now in college, have come back to Shive for further opportunities.
Shive said that every year there are unique challenges to placing each kid in their area of interest.
“There will be someone who wants to be a botanist and I have to go figure that out,” he said. “But I reach out to the ESD community and somebody knows someone, always.”