Last October Grace secured herself an internship position at Western Connecticut State University in the Meteorology Department. Typically these are offered to high school students who have a desire to continue their education in science. After participating in WCSU’s Bridge Program in the spring of 2012, her level of knowledge of weather became apparent to the faculty. The Tri-State Weather Conference was held at WCSU in October of 2012 and she was one of only a handful of students present. Before leaving, she approached the Department Heads and asked if it would be possible to obtain an internship as a middle school student given her level of interest, her desire and her knowledge base. They could see no reason why not, and offered her a spring internship. Her experience began in the middle of January.
Last spring, there was one day that I recall vividly, when Grace was outraged that not one student in her group had a working knowledge of our country’s geography. She alone knew all 50 states and their capitals. This knowledge did not come from memorization or testing. In no way can I claim responsibility for “teaching” my child this information. She learned it from watching national weather reports every morning on The Weather Channel. She learned it from reading daily national weather forecasts on sites such as WXEdge.com and Weather.gov. Her outrage was repeated recently during her internship when again this topic came up and her peers could not correctly identify Vermont. We.live.in.CT. How could these children not identify Vermont? There was no answer except that they have not been exposed to the information and they have not connected it to their lives. It led Grace to question their participation in the program. When it comes to weather, she can be a bit intense...
The Internship is a peer modeling opportunity. Grace is once again participating in the Bridge Program, but she has been given the task of planning, preparing and presenting lessons for the group. This is a great deal of responsibility on the shoulders of a 12 year old child. She has no syllabus, no homework planner, no course outline. She was given a tote bag full of papers, dvds, software programs, lesson plans and was told to go through it all, a daunting task indeed!
She separated her gifts like notepads, pens and bookmarks from the National Meteorological Society from the course work. She began a to-do list in her notebook listing the dvds to watch, the lesson plans to review and the programs she must learn like Scratch and how many tutorials are in each lesson. Then she got to work.
She presented her Director with a plan for the group. She took the items that are recommended for emergency preparation planning, a bunch of magazines, scissors and glue sticks. They are going to collage the items that the government recommends each family has on hand at all times.
In addition to this she was told to create a Powerpoint Presentation of a topic of her choosing. She choose the recent blizzard and set about breaking the storm down by hours, intensity, and closed with snowfall comparisons around our state. She credited the sites where she obtained her information and printed a copy for her portfolio. It looks professional and she is excited to present it.
Greg and I had a conversation about this experience so far. Grace earned her internship. Now she must work very hard to keep it. She has set a bit of a precedent as a middle school student working in this capacity. She is literally writing her own story. She will be the child to which others may be compared to. There is nothing we can do to prepare her for this, other than help her keep organized, and provide her the time to work on this project.
Greg and I could not think of any other experience we could provide, or that school would provide, that would give her a blank slate and very little guidance; just a theme and a date.
Talk about life skills. Bam! Here they are. Life is not waiting for opportunities to happen. This is not about preparing for the future. This is about being present in this moment. Making the most of an opportunity, not knowing where it could lead. This is about gaining confidence in an environment outside the comfort zone. This is about having a boss, not a teacher or a parent but a boss who will still guide and teach.
When I look back on the many unique, interesting experiences and opportunities my children have had over the past three years, this one ranks as #1 in terms of ownership. I did not seek this out for Grace. I did not use any influence or pull any strings. In my experiences with work, I have learned that getting ahead in life is often very little about what you know, and mostly about who you know. How gratifying for Grace that she achieved this position not because of who her parents know, but because of the knowledge she has in her brain and the passion she has in her heart.