The arduous process of finding an internship just got a whole lot easier for South Kingstown High School students after the recent rollout of a new smartphone app called SK Connects. How easy, you ask? Think push notification easy. A new job or internship is listed on the app by a location business owner, and students who have downloaded the app receive a push notification letting them know.
Scott Rollins, the internship coordinator at South Kingstown High School, said students getting real-life, work-based learning outside the classroom can give them a leg up when they get to college and potentially save them thousands of dollars when they’re deciding what to major in.
Because when it comes to learning about what a specific job entails, no job description or chapter in a book can accurately depict what any position will entail. The best way to understand it is to get first-hand experience, Rollins said.
The new app, which Rollins and a few other school administrators developed, connects students with business owners and community members who are looking for interns or employees or who want to offer work-based learning opportunities.
“Previously, there was a lot of cold calling and kids randomly going around looking for a place to intern,” Rollins said, adding that students in tech programs at SKHS have to do 80 hours of work-based learning. “So now, if Belmont is looking for a cashier or the hospital is looking for an intern, I can send a push notification out so that kids who download the app can get that notification on their phone.”
So far, several hundred students have downloaded the app.
Ultimately, the district is trying to encourage students to experience more authentic learning outside of the classroom. For example, Rollins said students might be working on creating a website or menu for an imaginary business when they could be doing similar work for a real business.
“Real-life projects is where students find out if they truly enjoy a job or not,” he said. “We want these kids to take what they’ve learned in the classroom and use those skills in the real world.”
SKHS Principal Rob Mezzanotte said their internship program, which is only in its second year, is thriving. Students are using their internship experiences, whether good or bad, to help shape their post-graduation plans, he said.
“We don’t require every student to have a plan for after they graduate from SKHS, but we do see value in our students understanding the specifics of various jobs,” he said. “Even if they have a bad experience at an internship or job, we think that’s good because it might rule out something that they might have pursued otherwise.”
One SKHS senior, Alexander Crudale, interned with the Narragansett Police Department last semester and said that the experience gave him a good glimpse into what it’s like to be a police officer.
“Now I have a summer job, a lot of connections and the officers taught me many skills that I will use once I am an officer,” he said, adding that he got to meet many of the department’s staff. “The days that I was on the road, I watched how traffic stops actually work. With the detectives, I looked at real cases and how the department deals with death. Some days were kind of grim, but being a police officer isn’t rainbows and fairies. This internship was by far the best class I took throughout my entire high school career.”
In order for the app to be as successful as possible, Mezzanotte said they need both business owners and students to download it and utilize all of its capabilities, which include internship and job postings and work-based learning and senior mentorship opportunities.
“It’s my really strongly held belief that schools should be offering meaningful learning opportunities that these students might not otherwise get,” Mezzanotte said. “SK Connects is our way of trying to make those opportunities more readily available to our students.”
The app can be downloaded at: https://srollins135.wixsite.com/website/sk-connects. Or you can search for “SK Connects” wherever you get your apps.