PSESD’s 2016-17 Student Involvement Interns have developed a set of recommendations for how PSESD can work with students to achieve our END: Success for Each Child and Eliminate the Opportunity Gap by Leading with Racial Equity. Together, interns, staff and our consultant partners (Roslyn Kagy and Marc Bautista) are furthering our strategic priority to have clear, adaptable, and repeatable processes for hearing from students, communities, families, and staff to assess community conditions, and drive strategy and program offerings.
Listening to young people is critical if we are to realize our END of Success for Each Child and Eliminate the Opportunity Gap by Leading with Racial Equity, because those most impacted by education systems are identifying how to improve those systems. Through the Student Involvement Internship, 17 students from King and Pierce counties learned together and influenced the work of the PSESD.
The Interns met over three months in an interactive internship that built youth skills, let interns shape their experience, do research, learn about different leadership and decision making processes, and make recommendations to the PSESD Board of Directors. Their recommendations are below.
General advice for working with youth
- Don’t use youth as decoration, as photos on your brochure or to present to the board once a year
- Internships should be mutually beneficial: they should transform PSESD practices, but also build skills for youth
- Youth contributions need to be honored and recognized: they should be paid or stipended or given school credit
- Youth voice opportunities should be thoughtfully planned and supported: they shouldn’t be last minute or unorganized. Youth should be contributing in meaningful ways
- Shared power and respectful interactions between youth and adults: youth shouldn’t be treated as little kids or cute or funny, they should be values as members of the team with real experiences and valuable contributions
- Relationships matter: youth will participate if adults are respectful and make connections
- Clear communication: we want to know what we are doing and why. We want to be supported. Don’t give us a project and walk away
- Projects with clear goals and timelines: we are balancing families, school, jobs, and extra curricular activities… we want to know what to expect from our internship before it starts
- Opportunities to lead
- Provide support resources and answers: we want to be interns to learn!
- Respect and trust youth leadership: we have been a part of many adult-led projects & programs our whole life, we know what does & doesn’t work! Let us help make your programs stronger
- Provide opportunities for feedback: we want to make opportunities for youth bigger and better, but we need a way to give feedback about what the experience was like.
Why PSESD needs internships
- By having youth voice in programs and activities, adults can begin addressing actual needs and concerns of youth.
- Offering youth the opportunity to give feedback about existing programs can strengthen the outcomes of the program when adults begin addressing the concerns of the youth and working with them to improve programmatic outcomes.
- Creativity, energy, enthusiasm and innovative ideas are all benefits to adults when youth are collaborating as decision-makers.
- Adults can be energized by the fresh perspective youth have.
- Youth can create new ways of looking at problems. Youth often can see to the core of issues without cluttering them with past experiences or what or isn’t possible
- It models the PSESD’s goal of “both/and” thinking and helps youth and adults move towards collective decision-making about education issues in our region
What students want out of internships
- Students want a Strong orientation: strong introduction of what the internship entails
- A mentor: Somebody that interns can talk to and ask for advice from
- Professionalism skills: they want a program that will help them develop a strong work ethic, learn responsibility and accountability, and build collaboration and communication skills
- Student want opportunities to share and present: give interns the chance to share their voice, present their findings and research, and do interactive projects
- Students want Lots of learning: chances to learn new skills, and improve existing ones, but also take on new challenges – real world learning is important!
- Students want Accountability: we want to get updates on progress of intern projects after internship is over, interns want to be in the know about how their projects are being put to use and the results they are producing
Internship structure and models
The PSESD should structure and model the internship to fit the needs of both parties.
- Needs to be accessible and low barrier: application process can’t be so restrictive, supplying Orca cards or transportation can help more students participate
- It should include Specific department internships so students can go deep into one area
- It should be inclusive and collaborative: Invite youth to PSESD meeting and events and vice-versa with invite staff to intern meetings (not just a separate project when staff aren’t present)
- Youth leading projects: give youth responsibility to use what they learned to take charge in a project
- HS mentors MS: it would be cool to have interns mentor middle schoolers on college access as part of a project for the PSESD
- Students who have completed an internship could take on a leadership role in a second year of the internship and maybe help lead year one interns or help with orientations or trainings – helping Roslyn & Marc support the new interns
- Share skills and training: PSESD representatives serves as mentors and give interns an inside look as to what it’s like working at the PSESD
- Have a group of diverse youth from different backgrounds and schools to lead youth projects that they feel would help problems facing their school and community
- We liked having students from many schools and districts, different ages, genders, races, languages, and abilities
- The internship should be action oriented: for example we could Lead focus groups to collect information and data for the PSESD or help develop district- wide communications and outreach to students around financial aid or college
- Supervisor should hold at least one orientation before the internship begins. It can focus on training about dress code and proper behaviors at work, paperwork and processes,
- Supervisors or internship leads should also provide a series of team-building and skill building activities similar to what we did in this internship
- Offer job shadow so interns can know what employees do in the real working environment.
- Assign different types of projects to interns. For example, a one-person project or a group project.
- Also let interns work with multiple managers, so they can receive a wide range of feedbacks.
- Give evaluations and advice on how well the intern does and how to improve.
- Ask interns to write evaluation on the meeting content, and the project instruction.
- Encourage and give interns reminder when needed.
- Interns should ask questions when they don’t understand something or need help with project.
- Be actively participate in every activities.
- Show respect to supervisor and other interns.
- Be punctual and try not to miss more than 3 meetings
- Use this internship as a chance to build and refine skills.
- Build connections and network in the field of education
Logistics and Schedule
Working out the logistics of an internship is key to making sure that the process goes smoothly for everyone. Here are some of the ideas we have for the internship to for the internship to run smoother and improve experiences:
Easy and more frequent payment method: We think if you were to incorporate a payment method where interns are paid on a bi-weekly system, and set up features like direct deposit near the beginning of the internship, you’ll see an overall boost in interest and engagement from the interns.
If they cannot receive payment they should receive CTE credit for their work with the PSESD.
Accommodating Laptops: The interns this year found that this internship requires a lot of work at a computer. It would beneficial if interns were equipped with laptops so they can take their work on the go with them if needed, this would also help during actual internship meetings when multiple people need to share or co edits files with each other.
Minimizing Paperwork: The interns found at the beginning of the internship, there was a lot of paperwork involved. We understand that it’s necessary, but finding a way to potentially minimize the paperwork and/or time needed to complete the paperwork
Multiple Phases of internships: For some students, the time requirement has been a struggle to balance out with the activities they have currently. Considering the possibility of having two internships; one during the winter and one during the summer would help people who know their schedule best, or can make the adjustments to their schedules in the future to reserve time for the internship.
Integrate Interns into the PSESD one weekday of the month to make the internship meaningful.