ELL Career Academy: Opportunities for all students

By Carrie Kaniecki

Last summer, 40 District 214 students participated in the English Language Learners (ELL) Career Academy, a program that provides resources and opportunities for postsecondary success. 

Over three weeks, students visited college campuses, spoke with industry professionals, built resumes and applied for scholarships. The program, now in its second year, gives current and former ELL students hands-on, relevant learning experiences that may have been unavailable to them in the past.

The program emphasizes the importance of learning in and out of the classroom in order to be ready for college and careers. For example, students said applying for financial aid in a classroom one day was just as valuable as getting out of the classroom and visiting Loyola University Chicago.

Students in their first year of the ELL Career Academy explored a variety of careers to better incorporate their interests into their high school curriculum. One day, first-year students learned about culinary careers through a presentation and a baking demonstration. That same day, students learned about coding.

The competitive nature of applying for jobs and the need to persevere throughout their lives were a few of the important lessons students learned. Near the end of the program, first-year students investigated a career field and put together a presentation outlining their college, financial and career plans.

The Career Academy expanded this summer and added more opportunities for second-year students. For example, second-year students participated in job shadowing and held micro internships that gave them personalized learning experiences. Students also met with District 214 alumni pursuing careers in technology, pharmacy and speech pathology.

Overall, students agreed the program gave them exposure to an authentic perspective of life after high school and served as a valuable support system that will last beyond high school.

Carrie Kaniecki is an undergraduate at the University of Dayton pursuing a degree in communication and Prospect High School alumna. She interned in the District's Department of Community Engagement and Outreach in the summer of 2016.