Discovering Passions Through Real-World Experience
At NorthPointe Christian, many of our students thrive in a traditional classroom environment. For others, the thought of sitting in school for 7 hours a day is unbearable, as they’d rather be fixing cars, baking, chopping wood, or welding. For one of our senior students, the Big Picture Learning Program was a perfect fit: the opportunity to attend school, but with an emphasis on his interests and passions.
After moving from Mississippi to Michigan the summer before his junior year, Josh and his parents began investigating an educational model that would help him get out of his comfort zone, avoid entire days in the classroom, and provide him practical, hands-on experience in a variety of careers before graduating high school.
During our conversation, Josh cited four reasons he loves Big Picture Learning and his current internship at InterCity Christian Federation:
During his time in Big Picture Learning, Josh has pursued internships that have provided him real-world experience and help discerning possible career paths after graduation. So far, Josh has worked at Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park and InterCity Christian Federation (ICCF). While these internships have tasked him with different responsibilities, both have provided priceless opportunities to learn more about God’s creation and serve others in need.
While at Meijer Gardens, Josh pursued agriculture and horticulture work. With a campus spanning over 150 acres, Meijer Gardens always had work for him to do! Whether tending to cacti in the greenhouse, trimming trees in the Japanese Garden, or watering one of the thousands of plants on the Meijer Gardens property, Josh had no shortage of opportunities to learn about tending to the diverse species of plants and cacti that grace landscapes around the world.
In his current internship at InterCity Christian Federation, Josh works in home renovations at InterCity Christian Federation. InterCity Christian Federation exists to offer affordable, clean, and safe housing to individuals in West Michigan who might have limited access to secure, long-term housing. This internship has offered Josh the opportunity to work with home buyers from different backgrounds and build his skills in painting, dry wall, clean up, and contractor management.
In both internships, each day looks a bit different! The different responsibilities, daily pace, and interactions with coworkers, community members, and contractors helped Josh not only build his professional resume, but also discern what he might like to pursue after graduation.
Another reason Josh appreciates Big Picture Learning is the mentorship opportunities he receives both in the classroom and at his internships. While in the classroom, teachers offer valuable feedback and ask questions about his internship that help him discern what career might be a good fit for him long-term. At his internships, his coworkers and supervisors alike have served as mentors who not only answer questions about the day-to-day operations of the business, but also provide further advice and guidance about particular jobs and career fields. Josh explained that many of his past mentors still are in regular contact with him now, ready and willing to provide advice and encouragement any time.
In addition to the mentorship opportunities offered through Big Picture Learning, Josh cited the internship integration as another part of the program that he enjoys. While in class at NorthPointe on Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday, Josh appreciates that his teachers take time to ask questions about his internship experience and allow him to tie his career interests and internship into group projects, discussions, and research projects. For example, a math project might allow him to use his experience in home renovations to prepare a detailed budget or assess current mortgage rates.
Building Relational and Professional Competence
The diverse internship opportunities offered to Josh through Big Picture Learning have helped him develop relational and professional competence that carries from work into the classroom. Working at Meijer Gardens and InterCity Christian Federation has allowed Josh to build relationships with people from diverse backgrounds and experiences, developing comfortability working with them on different projects, discussing goals, and communicating. Josh has already carried these skills into his internships, as he feels more and more comfortable setting project timelines, managing projects, and communicating with diverse teams. This experience also carries into the classroom, where he is comfortable working with other classmates and setting long-term goals.
As we concluded our conversation, I asked Josh how he might persuade a future NPC student to consider the Big Picture Learning Program. His answer?
- When you’re a BPL student, you’re not just another student – you’re part of a fantastic community of learners.
- The teachers pursue connection with students – they want to help you, be there for you, and encourage you in any way they can.
- BPL uniquely places you in real-world internship settings, which help you learn more about yourself and others while discerning what to do in the future.
The Big Picture Learning Program has offered Josh (and dozens of other students!) the opportunity to pursue their interests and passions while obtaining real-world experience and building their resume. We are excited to witness Josh’s continued growth as he discerns God’s calling on his life and investigates his talents, interests and passions.
Are you interested in Big Picture Learning for your high school student? We’d love to meet with you, give you a tour, and discuss the program’s offerings. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule your tour and receive more information.