Internships designed to ‘cultivate’ abilities at Future School of Fort Smith

by Tina Alvey Dale ([email protected]) 655 views 

Kalesty Peters exhibits her baked goods during an internship open house at The Future School of Fort Smith Thursday (Dec. 9).

Many internships for students at the Future School of Fort Smith were put on hold for a year during the COVID-19 pandemic. Internships for all students in 10th through 12th grade returned this fall, and Thursday (Dec. 9) the school celebrated students’ passions at an internship open house.

Superintendent Boyd Logan said when the school opened in 2016, the founders realized the importance of internships in students’ education as a way to combat the lack of relevance in education for a lot of students.

“We saw that high school was kind of a holding place for many students where they were waiting to get out in the real world. Some kids were super capable of doing amazing things and instead of cultivating that in school, school was keeping them from that. They did their time at school, and then they went out and did the things they were passionate about when they left school,” Logan said. “Whenever we started the school, we wanted to bring those passions that the kids have into the school as well as cultivate passions they do have and help them pursue those.”

Future School of Fort Smith opened its doors Aug. 22, 2016, in downtown Fort Smith as a tuition-free, public charter high school for students in 10th through 12th grade centered on a personalized approach to learning via student-designed internships, personalized learning plans, and an advisor for each student. It is the only public high school in Arkansas to provide professional, student-driven internships for every student, every semester.

Starting with the 2021-22 school year, the school is open to students in ninth through 12th grade. All students in 10th through 12th grade participate in internships on Wednesdays. Ninth-grade students do not take part in internships, but start participating in community service and preparing for a future of giving back to the community.

“With ninth grade, we are trying to cultivate their ability to be out (in an internship),” Logan said.

Each student at the school has an advisor who works with students with the help of others to determine students’ interest and how they can use those interests professionally, said Cordelia Hook, internship coordinator.

“And then we support them in going to get that internship themselves,” Hook said.

She added that sometimes the most successful internships are the ones the students hate.

“Because now they know that’s not something they want to do and they don’t waste time in school. They are able to go and look at what else they want to do,” Hook said.

E. Van Dyke said that is precisely what happened with her. The 10th-grader interned with Tone Beauty Bar in Fort Smith this semester because she thought cosmetology looked interesting. She learned that while it is interesting, it is also daunting and not something she intends to make her career. Nonetheless she learned from her time with the business, Van Dyke said. She learned how to dye fellow student Perla Amaya’s hair a vivid magenta. And she learned the importance of talking to people in a professional manner.

E. Van Dyke shows off the hair color she did for Perla Amaya during her internship at Tone Beauty Bar.

Senior Sada Vickers said her internship with Edible Ideas helped to fuel her passion for baking.

“My mentor really encouraged me. She showed me that it is possible to start your own business and be successful,” Vickers said.

The 12th-grader said she has been baking since she was about 10, so she spent more of her internship learning the business side of running a bakery. She’s hoping to do an internship with a tattoo business in the spring to help cultivate her passion for art. After graduation in the spring, Vickers plans to move to Norman, Okla., where she intends to work in different fields, gaining experience. She said once she decides where she wants to ultimately live, she will look toward opening her own business.

Likewise, Kalesty Peters, a 12th-grader and student body president, also wants to open a bakery one day. Peters has been accepted to the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith for Fall 2022 and intends to major in business. While in school Peters, who interned with Fort Smith Coffee Co. this fall, plans to build her credit and earn enough money to send herself to culinary school at Brightwater: A Center for the Study of Food in Bentonville, where she hopes to earn a culinary degree.

“After I receive my degrees, or maybe even during culinary school if it’s not too overwhelming, with that good credit I mentioned, I want to take out a small business loan and open my own bakery,” she said. “I hope it succeeds my expectations and I’m able to franchise it.”