Week Five Guides Learners to Explore New Pathways and Skills

During the penultimate week of the Readiness Institute 2023 Summer Program, learners in Pittsburgh and Central PA got the opportunity to hear about careers and insights in a range of industries, including artificial intelligence, health care, media, business, and more. The theme this week was “future career pathways” in Pittsburgh and “communication and soft skills” in Central PA.

On-Site Activities

Anita designing poster for MAISNo matter what college or career path learners take after high school, the Readiness Institute hopes they can be positive agents of change in the community. To prepare them for this community readiness, learners have been working in the classroom all summer on the Community Design Challenge, which helps them take global issues and examine solutions on a local scale.

At the start of the program, learners got into groups to select a topic — such as Zero Hunger, No Poverty, Understanding the Brain, and others. They then explored why the goal is important, how they can achieve it, and who can serve as stakeholders in the process. This week, learners brainstormed the “what” — tangible ways they can make progress in their own communities. One group, which included Mo, Anita, Ishan, and Sam, came up with an idea for MAIS, a digital platform that would provide resources and order food for those struggling with food insecurity. The name comes from the first initial of each of their names and a play on the word “maize.”

Also in the classroom, Pittsburgh learners welcomed Stacy and Kayleen from the Penn State Human Rights Initiative — which helps enable K–12 educators to teach difficult topics such as racism, trauma, the Holocaust, and other genocides. They presented a workshop on “Discovering Your Assets and Leadership in Difficult Situations and Your Community” and led discussions and activities aimed to get learners to reflect on their character traits and strengths that can help them approach problem-solving and difficult conversations. One of the activities asked learners to read a story about three gamers and their very different approaches to win a game in one hour. They were then asked to assign character assets — such as confident, meticulous, adventurous, independent, and others — to decide who was the best gamer. Learners had pretty strong opinions on who they thought was best, but the consensus by the end of the discussion was: they all were!

“You can’t really say if one was better than the other, because they all have different things about them that got them to the same place.” — Jalayia

In Central PA’s on-site classroom, Daren Coudriet, executive director at Penn State Nittany AI Alliance, spoke to students about the future of artificial intelligence and its impact on many careers and industries (hint: all industries are or will be affected by AI!). In the afternoon, Central PA learners welcomed Larry from SLB Radio, one of the Pittsburgh learners’ favorite off-site visits from week two. During this workshop, they heard about careers in the media and radio industry, got to explore different types of audio equipment, and even worked together to record their own podcast.

Side note: The Bedford/Blair cohort decided to make up their own outfit theme each week. Can you tell this week was pink?

Central PA group with SLB radio podcast Central PA group with SLB radio podcast

Off-Site Visits

Learners in Pittsburgh had some time during the morning of their off-site trips to explore the Heinz History Center — a historical museum in the Strip District that shares inspiring stories of Western Pennsylvania’s people. In the afternoon, cohorts met with Highmark/AHN leaders at Allegheny General Hospital to hear about how the hospital runs and careers in the medical field and throughout the health care system. They also got to get their scrubs on and tour the facility — including the emergency room, cath lab, and operating rooms. One of the groups even got to witness a knee replacement surgery and a liver transplant and another group watched as the LifeFlight helicopter flew in.

Pgh group at AGH in scrubs

“It was the most exciting part, and we were able to see some surgeries that were going on inside of the OR. It was one of my dreams to walk inside of an OR so I really liked it.” — Hasina  

“This field trip was super cool because I got to see things I’ve never experienced before.” — Sam

This week, the Somerset/Cambria cohort traveled to Thomas Automotive in Johnstown to tour the facility and see all of the various components that make the company run smoothly. Learners saw the many careers available throughout a car company as well as how much they impact the local community. The group especially liked riding in the all-new electric Hummer!

In the afternoon, learners took a trip to downtown Johnstown to visit the Cambria County Chamber of Commerce with Amy Bradley, CEO. They did a fun activity to find out what kind of bird they are and their communication style, then had a discussion on how people may communicate differently but can still work together to ensure that tasks get completed. The group also heard about the growth of Johnstown and how the chamber helps so many businesses throughout the community.  

“I found out I was the peacock bird type, meaning I was talkative, creative, and ready and willing to collaborate with many ideas. The test was a very introspective look on my personality and work ethic and certainly matched with me.” — Megan

thomas automotive vist

The Bedford/Blair cohort visited the Bedford County Courthouse this week — which houses archives, child services, correctional facilities, courtrooms, and the 911 center. Learners toured the building and heard from leaders about the services and procedures in each department. They even got to sit in on a few trials in the courtroom. In the afternoon, the group headed to the Bedford County Chamber of Commerce to meet with Kellie Goodman Shaffer, president/CEO, and Dailey Chandler, facilitator for youth leadership. They talked about their roles, as well as how to be a good communicator in school, with friends and family, and in the community. Learners also got to do a fun (and scary) activity with mousetraps that relied on trust and communication.

“I really found the 911 department interesting because there was so much technology involved that all has to be working in order to run smoothly.” — Bralyn

“I learned that communication is one of the most important tools in being successful. You need to be able to talk to whoever wants to talk to you and even those who don’t.” — Conner

Virtual Reflection

Learners continued to use their virtual day rotation to explore youth mental health first aid, starting each session with a mindfulness activity like meditation, body scan, and five-finger breathing. This week, Matt Crutchman (Penn State Extension educator, 4-H Youth) and other social work professionals lead the discussion on topics in mental illness, family connection, and seeking help. Learners had very honest conversations about the personal impact that mental illnesses can have on their lives and how to get help and proper treatment for a mental diagnosis, as well as the importance of positive communication between parents and teens. They also heard about ways to distinguish between “normal” stress responses and those that may indicate a need for additional support from health professionals.

Penn State Trip

All of the Summer Program learners from Pittsburgh and Central PA ended the week with a whole group trip to Penn State’s University Park and Altoona campuses. At the Altoona campus, learners heard from admissions and got to tour the campus — which has about 4,100 students each year. They then visited the University Park campus — which has more than 40,000 undergraduate students — to take part in the Spend a Summer Day program.

Learners got to tour classrooms, residence halls, and recreation facilities, and some even participated in the Resource Fair, STEM Fair, and College of Health and Human Development Fair. At the end of the day, the group visited the Penn State Berkey Creamery on campus to try some legendary ice cream (fun fact: in 1978, Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield took Penn State’s ice cream-making course before launching their brand Ben and Jerry’s later that year), and got a very special trip to Beaver Stadium where they got to walk through the players tunnel onto the field. What a memorable day!

Next Week

There’s only one week left of the 2023 Summer Program! Next week, learners in Pittsburgh will work on communication and soft skills, while Central PA will focus on future career pathways. On Thursday, all 64 learners will join together again at the Energy Innovation Center in Pittsburgh to close out the summer.

Don’t forget to follow us on Instagram for the latest: @RIatPennState

Read other Summer Program blog posts.

Pittsburgh Photo Gallery

Summer Program 2023 - Week Five in Pittsburgh

Central PA Photo Gallery

Summer Program 2023 - Week Five in Central PA