Real World Learning program cultivates career skills and connections
Kearney, Mo., July 1, 2021: Maddy Dumka knows now that it’s OK for things to be difficult.
Ms. Dumka, a junior at Kearney High School, was among several students who gained Real World Learning experiences in June through Kearney School District’s 2021 Summer School internship program. On a rain-soaked Wednesday, June 30, they shared some of the key lessons learned during end-of-term presentations at the school.
One of the biggest takeaways was understanding how to overcome challenges even when things get tough, according to Maddy, who did her internship at the Kearney Firehouse Community Center. She described having to address issues on her own for the first time in her life.
“I just experienced a lot of things that I learned are a lot harder than they appear,” she said. “And, you know what, I learned that I’m OK with that.”
Maddy’s insight was exactly what KHS teacher Alyssa Stevens was hoping to hear from the students who participated in this summer’s internships. Real World Learning is designed to both help students apply academic lessons in workforce settings and give them the opportunity to discover some of the less tangible but just as important skill sets needed to succeed in the 21st-Century global economy.
“We can talk about resiliency and problem solving and collaboration, but those lessons only take root through experience,” Stevens said. “These students are gaining soft skills that they will benefit from for the rest of their lives.”
KHS junior Brooklynn Hall also interned at the Kearney Firehouse. She and Maddy performed a variety of tasks, including helping to plan the center’s “Summer Pass” program and support residents who participate in the senior citizen wellness program.
Helping and talking with the center’s clients was an education in itself, Ms. Hall said.
“There are so many different types of people there, and they all wanted basically the same thing, which is to be heard and understood,” she said. “They have many interesting stories and faced so many challenges in their lives. They would tell me that they would just flip a switch and decide to make things better. That’s something that really stuck with me.”
Internships are a valuable way to create connections between the community and schools, according to Kearney Enrichment Council Executive Director Kurt Hamilton, who runs the Kearney Firehouse. He jumped at the opportunity to take on two student interns and said it was a great experience for everyone.
“This internship program really enriches the lives of both our students and our community members,” Mr. Hamilton said. “It’s very important for the district to give our kids the chance to have the kind of experience in the workforce. And have fun, of course! That’s always important.”
Hamilton definitely met that last goal, according to Maddy.
“My boss, Kurt, is very funny and sarcastic,” she said. “It was just overall a great environment to work in.”
KHS senior Anya Kuhn also learned how to walk that line between having fun and getting the job done right as an intern at the Martha Lafite Thompson Nature Sanctuary. She often found herself encouraging younger children to explore the park while also keeping them safe.
“We would supervise and guide them as they were playing in the creek and learning about nature and animals,” Ms. Kuhn said. “But we might say, ‘leaves of three, that’s poison ivy,’ and the kids would run towards it.”
Julia Kuhn, Anya’s mother and the Kearney School District Education Foundation Board Chair, affirmed the value of the internship program.
“I think it is wonderful that many of the students will be continuing their internships, several with nonprofits, thereby giving back to their community,” Julia Kuhn said.
Sophomore Gunner Trammell got hands-on experience in broadcast media as an intern at Kearney radio station 102.7 FM. He enjoyed the fast pace and technical demands of radio and is now convinced he wants to pursue a career in the broadcast industry.
“I learned how to both be quick on my feet and to work carefully,” Mr. Trammell said.
Station General Manager Brian Watts was impressed with how comfortable Gunner was when he was interacting with VIP guests like Kearney Mayor Randy Pogue and Missouri State Representative Josh Hurlbert.
“Gunner was great to have here! He’s a very bright and outgoing kid,” Mr. Watts said. “We were all impressed with his communication skills. He’s able to start and hold a conversation with adults, and even with community leaders”