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Upskilling/reskilling learners to engage in real-world experiences

History was made this week, as we wrapped up our inaugural Summer Program! Our last week of the program focused on soft skills, which are the interpersonal skills — such as communication, emotional intelligence, and problem solving — that help set all of us up for success in any situation.

Joe Oliphant from Schools That Can led a workshop on soft skills, where he talked about the importance of learners knowing their interests and personality type. He used the Holland Codes approach, which breaks interests down into six categories, to help learners seek out opportunities that will allow their personality type to thrive. He had the learners complete an interest profiler to help them determine their personality type, which they then discussed among their peers. Because the results were so individualized, the conversations were really rich and insightful! One of the concepts that really stuck out is that we need to stop asking “How intelligent are you?” and instead reframe the question to ask “How are you intelligent?”

During the second half of the workshop, he shared interview tips and tricks and helped the learners prepare for mock interviews, where he presented the learners with a hypothetical position and had them interview with their instructors to “get the job.” Going into the interviews, the learners’ nerves were palpable, but as they trickled out of the classroom, they started chatting about what went well and what they need to improve (the level of self-awareness was fantastic to see)! As the conversations continued, the learners started to coach one another and provided great feedback. After the learners were interviewed, they also went back in to receive feedback from the instructors, which they really took to heart.

Learners also toured Penn State Fayette, where they played some games and met with several staff. Admissions Counselors Tre’ Coles and Mike Romeo kicked off the visit with an information session and highlighted some of the differences between high school and college. Dr. Melissa Miner, campus coordinator for nursing, talked to learners about the nursing program and its various career pathways; Paul Coltus, a research technologist and member of academic affairs, shared information about the STEM classes and lab spaces available on campus; and Samantha Swetz, head volleyball coach, talked about the athletics on campus and the opportunities for students to get involved with different teams.

In addition, learners wrote their final reflections, where they answered the questions: Who am I? Who do I want to become? How do I get there? How will I continue to learn? How will I give back to my community?

Instructors then worked with the learners to fine tune these essays so that they are all able to leave the Summer Program with a strong draft of a potential college essay. While they were working on their essays, staff from the Saturday Light Brigade interviewed them about their experiences this summer. These interviews will be turned into a short podcast series to document students’ growth over the course of the six weeks, and the learners will receive a short audiogram that they can later use to highlight their communication skills.

After the interviews and essays, the learners split back up into their groups for the human-centered design challenge to develop their final presentations.

On the last day of the Summer Program, the learners delivered their presentations to the whole group, showcasing all of the hard work they have done over the course of the program. Dr. Cornelius Coleman from Duquesne University came back to speak with the learners because he was so excited about the updates that he’d been seeing on social media about what they were doing.

In addition, Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald spoke to the learners about the exciting things that are happening in the Pittsburgh region and ways for them to be part of the region’s future.

We are so proud of our first Summer Program cohort, and now that they are future and community ready, we cannot wait to see what they will accomplish in their personal and professional lives.

View our photos from the final week!