As part of the Gemini II group in the Kansans Can School Redesign project, Fredric Remington High School introduced a new look this school year with one of the biggest changes geared toward preparing students to enter the working world.

With no previous internship program to speak of, the high school is building from the ground up to offer work experiences for its students, which are geared toward sophomores, juniors and seniors. This year, the school introduced three classes to help prepare students for post-graduation — including career exploration, diversified occupations and employability skills — with the district currently gathering feedback from area business partners to generate internship opportunities tied to the coursework.

"Our hope is to provide more opportunities for our students to get real world experience and to be able to get out into the community and neighboring communities to get some on-the-job training," said high school counselor Desha Ayres. "We've worked with individual students to meet the needs of their employers, but this is a first for us to actually try to establish a program and build something in-house. They're going to be getting credit as opposed to just leaving for work. This could be a paid internship or work they already have, but we also wanted to try and connect students with businesses where maybe they could just get some basic on-the-job training or job shadow opportunities and things like that."

Preparing for the redesign, the opportunity for internships and work experiences was discussed heavily in community meetings.

Though the seeds of an internship program may have been planted some time ago, Ayers noted the redesign project was the fertilizer that helped that idea come to life.

"Being part of the redesign process really lent itself to having a lot of those community meetings and forced conversations around what is it that we want to do, why do we want to do this and how is this going to help," Ayers said. "That really probably was the initial push. That definitely gave us the platform and enabled us to put something into place."

Conversation may have been free-flowing in the planning stages, but it has slowed down since the official launch of the school's redesign. That prompted the call for feedback from area businesses willing to partner with USD 206 on the internship program. Ayers noted the school is looking for opportunities in nearby communities like El Dorado, Newton and Wichita, as well as its home communities of Whitewater and Potwin — basically anywhere it is feasible for students to travel for an internship.

Having a successful internship program established at nearby Valley Center, Ayers noted the school did not have to "reinvent the wheel" when building its own. In fact, while the business partnerships have not been outlined just yet, the existence of the course structure means new internship opportunities can be introduced at any time, with the school hoping to offer those opportunities sooner rather than later.

"The classes are in place now. We have students who are leaving for employment and we have some others that we're just trying to build it kind of as we go," Ayers said. "It's starting small, but we're doing it now. I would say it's more individualized and tailored right now than a set structure program."

Ultimately, Ayers noted the goal is to assist students in gaining real-world experience as well as allowing them to see business career opportunities they were unaware of and that may not have been available to their parents, grandparents or other family members.

Additionally, the coursework (where sophomores will start, before transportation availability allows for more internship opportunities as juniors and seniors) is intended to help build resume skills and offer other experiences that will help focus students' career pursuits post-graduation — something that fits with the mission behind the school's redesign.

"Our focus as we've gone into redesign has really been to help students to pursue their passion and purpose, and we really feel like the internship opportunities are really going to feed into that and help them," Ayers said.

Businesses looking to partner with Remington High School on its internship program can visit usd206.org to fill out a contact form or call 316-799-2123 for more information.