For Reagan high school students who are seeking to participate in an internship before graduating, stepping into the workforce just got easier.
Ronald W. Reagan High School, located on the South Side, recently hosted its first Opportunity Fair, an event that exposed students to at least 20 employers, internships and volunteer opportunities. The fair is one way the school helps students build career-related skills.
“Reagan supports students’ career readiness by reinforcing their academic skills, technical skills and employment skills,” said Molly Schuld, science teacher and coordinator of the fair.
Students on Reagan’s International Baccalaureate Career-related program track take a personal and professional skills course, and are encouraged to complete a 120-hour, paid internship related to their career interests. Gabriella Gonzalez, a Reagan junior, recently landed an internship with Aurora Health Care as a dietary aide.
“I’m quite a nerd,” she said, “I’ve always wanted to go into the military to help people. I want to go into medicine.” Gonzalez participated in a program with the Medical College of Wisconsin, where she dissected a heart and an eyeball, and is coordinating a blood drive later this semester. She explained that students must have the drive to pursue their career interests, but Reagan makes it easy for students to connect with opportunities.
The high school opened in 2003 under an IB curriculum, which Stein said promotes “students’ understanding of their roles in an international society and gives them the tools they need to be responsible learners.”
From its humble beginnings, when the school consisted of six faculty members and 127 students, Reagan now instructs students representing more than 20 countries. “Education is kind of sad now,” she said, “[but] Reagan renews my faith that education can be done well.”
Isaac Wells, a junior who commutes two hours daily to attend school, appreciated the Opportunity Fair. “I always wanted to have an internship,” he said. “I want to have an edge when I apply for colleges.” Wells said he comes from a lower-income family, but always achieved good grades and dreamed of a better future for himself. “I’ve seen success and I don’t want to stay poor,” he said.
Wells participates in the Architecture, Construction and Engineering (ACE) Mentor Program and Talent Search, an organization that offers small scholarships and college tours for high school students. He also is part of the Sponsor a Scholar Program with the Boys and & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee.
“Employers felt [our] students were prepared,” Schuld said, though she acknowledged some were wary about hiring high school students.
Students lined up to interview with representatives from a variety of organizations, including Discovery World, Milwaukee Fire Department and the Milwaukee School of Engineering (MSOE). “They were scared initially,” Schuld said, “but they were awesome by the end.” She noted that Reagan’s support system is strong, and that teachers feel confident sending students out into the workforce.
Reagan High School is the newest of several Milwaukee Public Schools that sponsor curricula offered by the National Academy Foundation (NAF), a New York City-based nonprofit that operates in schools across 36 states and serves more than 100,000 high school students.
NAF provides Reagan with resources for work-based learning, according to Marcy Aycock, an NAF representative who works with Reagan faculty. Schuld, who also serves as the academy director for the NAF Academy of Health Sciences at Reagan, implements a health sciences curriculum provided by NAF. “We worked with the NAF advisory board to set up this fair,” Schuld said.
“Reagan is doing a great job,” said Gonzalez. “They set us up for success and help students connect to opportunities.”