As they map out resources in a five-county area that may be of help to students, parents and professionals, a group of students at Bemidji High School are gaining real life work experience.
The students are paid interns this semester with Project C3: Connecting Youth to Communities and Careers.
Project C3 is a partnership among state agencies in Minnesota and PACER Center, a Minneapolis-based parent training and information center serving Minnesota families of youth with disabilities. Partners include the Minnesota Department of Education and the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development's Vocational Rehabilitation program.
As interns, the students at BHS are helping Project C3 develop an online directory of organizations in Minnesota that provide services to youth, including those with disabilities. The service areas include post-secondary education, housing, transportation, health, employment and recreation.In the mornings, the students meet for their Project C3 class at BHS where they work individually and in teams to contact organizations to be part of the online directory.
The students call the organizations, asking them to complete a survey that includes a description of the services they offer and their contact information. Once the students collect the data, they prepare it for placement in the directory.
Teacher Myra Lindahl said the students are building up many skills, the highest being self confidence. She said they also are gaining teamwork, organization, problem solving and public speaking skills. The students have given several presentations on their work.
All the students in the class are contacting organizations in Beltrami County. The students also split into teams that each focus on an area county.
Juniors Stephanie Webber and Samantha Shaw are working as a team to contact organizations in Hubbard County.
"I like calling people and being able to stay organized," said Webber, adding that she also has gained confidence talking in front of people.
Through the internship, Shaw said she has gained many different job skills that she will need in the future - ranging from calling people she doesn't know to organization.
She added she believes the online directory will really help youth or people with disabilities as they try to find resources.
On Monday, Kristine Andrews and Ashleigh Collins of Child Trends in Washington, D.C., met with the students in the Project C3 class at BHS. Child Trends is a research firm that studies children at all stages of development.
Andrea Moore, youth resources coordinator at PACER Center, said Youthline America wants to make the project nationwide based upon the success of the resource mapping internship model in Minnesota. The New York organization invited representatives from Child Trends to interview the interns, teachers and administrators, she said.
Youthline America and PACER Center partnered to create the technology for Project C3 and that technology can be replicated for other states, said Shauna McDonald, director of community resource development at PACER Center.
Collins, a research analyst, said Child Trends is conducting research to see how Project C3 is working. Andrews, a research scientist, added that they are trying to learn from the experiences of the students and all participating parties.
The Project C3 online directory is available at www.c3online.org.