Students use real-world experience to better businesses, community

Students from the Minnesota Center for Advanced Professional Studies (MNCAPS) program presented projects they had been working on for several weeks during business and healthcare showcases June 2.

The showcase was a chance for students to share their hard work with parents, administrators, business partners and community members.

“These projects truly showcased the work and effort of all the students,” said Melanie Smieja, MNCAPS

Business MNCAPS students spent 13 weeks on the projects that were presented at the showcase event.

Business students spent 13 weeks on the projects that were presented at the showcase event.

coordinator. “Through this opportunity, both the business and healthcare students were given the chance to experience the real world and apply what they are learning in the classroom to those projects.”

Students in the business pathways program were given a corporate business assignment that spanned 13 weeks and included working with real corporations, such as Target, Polaris, and Frandsen Bank & Trust, to solve an issue or help the company with a project.

The students met with the project partner (company), discussed objectives, asked questions and were given a list of deliverables the company expected from the students. The students were each given a role, including project manager, communications specialist, customer relations specialist and other analysts roles. Among some of the tasks expected of students included research, site visits, creating survey and focus groups, and using those findings as data in their projects.

“We got to work out in the real world, but still came back to campus and were able to reintegrate ourselves into the high school experience,” said Maya Kramer, a student at Lakeville South High School. “[MNCAPS] is the best of both worlds.”

Medical and Healthcare Pathway students had a different assignment with different objectives. These students spent a month creating a health-related service that met the needs of a specific patient population within the local community that wasn’t already available. The services ranged from volunteer to nonprofit to for-profit businesses. The team presented their service project idea to a panel of professionals to seek support and approval of their proposed service. Among the professionals were a nurse, nonprofit owner and psychologist. After seeing the presentations, one group’s idea was chosen to be carried out.

“During the brainstorming process, we wanted students to really think about whether the service was something that could actually be implemented, if there was truly a need for it and if others would find it worthwhile,” Smieja said.

Medical and Healthcare Pathway students worked in groups to create a service that met the needs of a specific patient population within the local community that wasn’t already available.

Medical and Healthcare Pathway students worked in groups to create a service that met the needs of a specific patient population within the local community that wasn’t already available.

Among the nine services, Respite Night was chosen as the winner and will be implemented with MNCAPS students this following year. Respite Night is a fun, free, “recharge” night for families who have a child or children with disabilities. Parents are given the opportunity to go out for an evening, while having the peace of mind that their child is in a safe environment with knowledgeable  caregivers.

Prior Lake High School student Lauren Hopper said it’s something her family has participated in in the past at Grace Lutheran Church in Eden Prairie and something she wanted to bring to this community.

“It’s cool we get to replicate it here,” Hopper said. “For me it’s a blessing, for the parents it’s a blessing and for the kids it’s a blessing.”

Other service project ideas included Words of Hope, a website/app for those with mental health issues offering a place to speak anonymously about what they’re going through and receive support, and a nonprofit called Hope of Our Future, which would provide themed activities for hospital patients.

Smieja said the skills the students were able to obtain from the showcase projects is unmatchable.

“The students gained everything from learning time management skills to how to work professionally with a

The showcase was a chance for students to share their hard work with parents, administrators, business partners and community members.

The showcase was a chance for students to share their hard work with parents, administrators, business partners and community members.

corporation to team dynamics and how to work best with one another,” Smieja said. “There’s so much work involved in the project — it’s not just an assignment you have to write and turn in. The best part for them was to understand it’s ok to make mistakes and learn from and fix those mistakes.”

And the great news is — not only will one of the healthcare projects be implemented, but a majority of the business companies will be using the recommendations the students had from their assigned projects, such as Polaris changing out an ad in an upcoming catalog. Smieja said the recommendations from the students solidified what the companies were thinking or it gave them new places to further look into.

Learn more about MNCAPS, the joint partnership between Prior Lake-Savage and Lakeville Area Public school districts, and what the nationally recognized, innovative high school program offers students.

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