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Students Gaining Work Experience Through The Riverpoint Academy

Riverpoint Academy

School is right around the corner. Are your kids excited to go back?

One group of kids is definitely excited to go back to school. In fact, they weren’t so thrilled in June when school ended.

You might be asking yourself, who are these kids, and can my child be like that?

These kids are students at the Riverpoint Academy, a high school that is part of the Mead School District. The Academy is an innovative school with project-based coursework designed to get students college- and career-ready.

The school called the Riverpoint Campus home its first year (hence the name), but moved to north Spokane this summer in preparation for the 2013-2014 school year. It held an open house this week, and parents, community leaders, business folks, students and many others got a chance to learn about the coursework and hear from students, who liked the coursework so much, they are indeed excited to go back.

A student panel talked about their first year at the Academy and how it impacted them. Among the many things the students learned was what it takes to be a leader and what life in a work setting is like – two things that are important to know once your education is complete, don’t you think?

“Our project-based learning has us working in teams, and you have to be a leader,” said Olivia Purcell, an incoming senior.

The ways the Academy teaches students leadership skills isn’t like a typical student government class. Students at the Academy take a learn-by-doing approach.

For B.J. Sinclair, he got the opportunity – as part of our Work 101 program in partnership with the Academy, among others* – to be a high school intern in the IT department at STCU. During his internship, Sinclair realized what the teachers at the Academy were teaching him and his classmates matched up nicely with what he saw at STCU.

“It was really an amazing experience,” he said. “I’m a computer guy, so I was spending most of my time at the help desk.” Sinclair added that the move from a classroom to a workplace was an easy transition.

The Riverpoint Academy educates its students with college and career readiness on the minds of the faculty. This is important, because when businesses consider the Spokane region to relocate or expand to, the first question is often, will I be able to hire skilled workers?

If our region doesn’t have a skilled workforce, businesses will look elsewhere to invest. That would hurt our regional economy and we’d suffer in the long run.

That’s why schools like the Riverpoint Academy and Spokane Valley Tech are important – they take a career-focused approach to teaching. Project-based learning helps students see real-world examples and forces them to think differently.

The curriculum at the Academy and the Work 101 internships were designed to give students a feel for what careers they may or may not enjoy. If students know this before college, it’s easier on them as they choose a career path.

So after a year at the Academy and an internship, does Sinclair still want to work in I.T.?

“I still like computers after this experience,” he said. “I got to experience firsthand, if you pick this as your career, this is what the rest of your life is going to look like. I think that’s important to know before you get a job.”

*Our Work 101 program is in partnership with the Riverpoint Academy, Spokane Valley Tech and the Spokane Area Workforce Development Council.

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