While building and nurturing relationships with community partners, a Chicago-area school system develops communication, critical thinking and problem-solving skills among students.
I clearly recall the moment I knew beyond any doubt that District 214 in Chicago’s northwest suburbs was on the correct path in blazing a national trail to create work-based learning experiences for all students. From the beginning, we’ve been confident about the efficacy of work-based learning, or WBL. But I knew for sure once I heard this story. It was 2018, and we had been building these learning experiences for a while, recruiting community members to host these opportunities and carefully aligning them with our coursework and career pathways.
It was deep into the fall semester when I learned that one of our high schoolers had been so excited to learn about aviation career studies offered at Lewis University that he caught a public transit bus at 5:30 a.m., then transferred to another bus and another before finally reaching his destination by 8 a.m.
Mind you, the university campus is only a 45-minute drive from our school district. But because the student relied on public transportation, his trek took 2 hours starting before dawn. That’s how motivated he was to get a glimpse of an aviation program as he aspired to become a pilot. He toured the campus, sat in on a class, had lunch with his admissions counselor and discussed the aviation programs. In a remarkably classy move, the university gave the student a ride home in a small plane. While this anecdote involves a university visit rather than a longer-term WBL experience, it nonetheless illustrates the amazing power of getting students out into the community to engage in hands-on learning about prospective careers.
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