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Impact of Community and Education Collaboration

As community engagement coordinator for Alignment Rockford I had the privilege of attending site visits last week with RPS205 teachers and sophomores. Until I actually attended my first visit to Larson & Darby Group with 25 East High School students interested in architecture, I wondered if I was more excited than the students would be. It soon became quite apparent to me that everyone involved was beyond excited not only about the specific careers that the students wish to pursue, and the passion that the business partners have about their own careers. There was also this unified excitement between community members, students, and RPS and Alignment Rockford staff that we are all behind this- wanting better for our community and its future leaders, and this 90 minute visit was a giant step toward this goal creating real-world experiences, career information, and connections for students.

Larson & Darby Group assembled a team to discuss with the students the many careers within architecture from interior design, to drafting, to architectural design; informing the students of the educational and professional requirements of each. The students then broke into small rotating groups to explore the diverse departments within the architectural firm. Here the students learned that every single piece of furniture, material, and accessory must be analyzed for safety requirements as well as meet the specific needs of the customer. They observed stacks of blueprints and 3D models of architectural structures, learning the processes of developing such materials. Read more about the sophomore site visit at Larson&Darby

My second visit was to 317 Studio & Gallery with 28 Jefferson High School students interested in careers in Studio Art. Therese Rowinski gallery co-owner, and Anne O’Keefe, president and CEO of the Rockford Area Arts Council explained that even if the students decide not to pursue art as a career they should continue to work on their art not only as means of self-expression but also because of the multitude of diverse career industries that seek to hire creative individuals in today’s market. They inspired the students to embrace being unique and to not be discouraged by seeing things differently than others as this is a gift and not something to be ashamed of. The students then toured the beautiful gallery which was being prepped for next week’s Sprint Art Scene; where they learned all about what goes into operating a gallery and how to market oneself as a gallery owner or studio artist. Wrapping up the visit, Therese offered each student a cookie or cupcake while Anne and she expressed their support for the students, offering their assistance “any time.”

My final visit brought me to the Discovery Center joining 9 Roosevelt students to learn about informal education. We toured the facility and the many educational departments tailored for audiences from toddlers to adults. I must admit that while I have enjoyed the fun educational activities at the Discovery Center, I had no idea there are so many fun educational activities that are planned and offered behind the scenes. The students particularly enjoyed the trip to the basement which felt like Santa’s Workshop as we observed an electricity display being worked on in the midst of myriad trinkets and parts of exhibits. The tour ended in the board room where we were all invited to sit at the long table to discuss careers and what it means to be a nonprofit. Mike Rathbun, associate director, explains that as a nonprofit they are proud to give back to the community while they must also rely on supporters which is why they try to get young people involved early so that they continue to visit the Discovery Center as they grow, and hopefully eventually bring their own children. Mike and his educational specialist and marketing manager all spoke to the students about how it is not rare to not know exactly what you want as a future career, and the importance of volunteering and interning as a means to network and discover personal interests and opportunities.

We are so very grateful for the opportunities that each of these local businesses have provided for RPS sophomores, and its impact for the local community as we prepare our future leaders for college and careers. Rockford’s future depends on the unity of our local business leaders and the education system. Whether just a one-time volunteer experience, referral, or regular involvement we need your help. To find out how you can get involved please contact me at: 779-774-4389 x 11 or katy@alignmentrockford.com

 

 

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