The Student News Site of Walt Whitman High School

The Black and White

The Student News Site of Walt Whitman High School

The Black and White

The Student News Site of Walt Whitman High School

The Black and White

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June 19, 2024

The Summer RISE program: What it is and why it matters

Students from MCPS’ Summer RISE program participate in their internship at the Glenstone Museum.

Surveys of professionals across the country yield a clear conclusion — traditional education is failing to prepare students for the workplace. According to a 2019 report by the Society for Human Resource Management, 51% of HR employees believe that education systems have done little or nothing to help develop students’ professional skills. According to 50% of respondents, this trend has only worsened over the past two years, leaving employers without quality candidates for their positions. 

In order to combat this lack of career readiness, the MCPS Department of Partnerships created the Summer RISE program in 2017. RISE matches incoming MCPS upperclassmen with a summer internship that aligns with their fields of interest. During the RISE application process, students fill out a comprehensive Google form about which industries they’re curious about, their location within the county and other factors that influence the matching process. Following the application, staff at the Department of Partnerships assign students to an internship. This past summer, 185 organizations provided opportunities within 72 distinct industries.

Over the course of the program, students spend 50 hours in their internship, participate in a skill-based orientation and receive instruction through a Canvas classroom. After the program ends, all participants receive a $500 stipend for their work. Kevin Brunk, an instructional specialist for the MCPS Department of Partnership, believes that the unique structure of RISE allows it to reach students who need it the most.

“My favorite thing about how this program works is there is no requirement to participate outside of grade level, creating a truly level playing field for all students for any of our opportunities,” Brunk said. “There are generally so many barriers and application requirements for traditional summer internship programs that a lot of students apply for that they never make it through.”

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According to Brunk, the program has served 3,446 students since 2017, its reach increasing every year. In 2017, organizers provided opportunities to 351 students, a number that has nearly tripled to 922 students in 2023.

Junior Jasmin Jabara participated in the program last summer through an internship at the FDA’s Oncology Center of Excellence. The opportunity to hear about a variety of job opportunities and present to prestigious scientists was incredibly valuable, she said.

“I learned about a lot of different STEM-related careers,” Jabara said. “I’m interested in pursuing a career in STEM so learning more specific careers was really helpful for me to narrow down the options for my future.”

Junior Luiza Berto also participated in the program this past summer, but in a very different industry from Jabara — Berto had an internship at the Glenstone Museum in Potomac, where she experienced and contributed to the daily operations of the art museum. She found that the program helped her narrow her career interests and that it’s beneficial for students to experience the everyday operations of the fields they’re interested in.

“I was able to work at a lot of different sections of the art museum, which allowed me to figure out what I like and am most interested in,” Berto said. “It’s so important to be in an actual working environment.”

Experts acknowledge that traditional education is not preparing students for the workforce. According to a survey of over 750 employers by Wonderlic, 97% of employers agree that soft skills impact performance. That same study, however, showed that only 31% of job candidates have satisfactory soft skills. The RISE program aims to address this with skill training students participate in alongside their internship. Interns learn how to write a resume, ask for letters of recommendation and make a good first impression on employers.

 Preparing students for the workforce is incredibly important to Jocelyn Park, the CEO of APLUS education, a host organization in the RISE program.

“There are some things that you just can’t teach within four walls, sitting there listening to someone,” Park said. “Things like leveraging your social capital, or knowing how to set yourself apart from others or knowing how to interview well for a job or for an internship. Those are all things that I’m deeply invested in.”

MCPS expects to continue the Summer RISE program in the coming years, allowing future workers to prepare the trade-specific and professional skills they need for success. 

“For the immediate future, we are looking at ways to continue to enhance the program for future students,” Brunk said. “We are looking at ways to streamline the introductory orientation and have other professional events for students […], but also create new opportunities for professional resources so students are more prepared for their experience.”

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About the Contributor
Rebecca Waldman
Rebecca Waldman, Opinion Writer
Grade 11 Why did you join The B&W? I wanted to report on the issues that impact our community and write stories that make a difference. What is your favorite board game? Clue

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