Christian Isaac is a youth program director at the YMCA. It’s a career path he didn’t know he wanted until enrolling in one of the first cohorts of the Next Move internship program.
The Washington State Legislature is considering raising the enrichment levy lid, which will help plug a $30M budget shortfall for Tacoma Public Schools. The Next Move internship program is one of many enrichment programs that those levy-dollars have previously funded. Through Christian Isaac and students behind him, it’s also a bright example of collective impact at its finest, where local businesses, nonprofits, government, and schools have come together with the same goal to provide students with tools for the future. In the end, it’s a testament to the power of innovative, targeted supports for Tacoma students that local voters have chosen overwhelmingly to invest in.
Launching into their 15th year, the Next Move internship program offers high school juniors and seniors at TPS a rare opportunity to gain hands-on experience in a career field they want to pursue. By working alongside employees, students gain first-time exposure to explore their professional interests.
“At the time, I thought I wanted to be a teacher. After my first internship, I thought maybe this isn’t for me,” says Christian.
After completing an online application, students are first enrolled in “Intro to Internship,” a semester-long class where they learn to develop their resume, create a cover letter, research career interests and practice professional communication. During this process, internship coaches work closely with students to identify their needs and interests. They are then matched with local businesses or organizations that align with their career goals.
“We want to give students a safe and supportive environment to learn,” says Brittany Skobel, Next Move Partnership Coordinator.
The program, which in 2013 served just one school, now hosts about 250 kids a year and provides in-class instruction in addition to internship opportunities. Two of their partners include Multicare, who host 20-30 interns each year, and Kaiser Permanente, who are hosting four interns this spring in their Tacoma clinic.
“We talk to students about seeing every opportunity as a chance to learn and grow,” says Brittany. “If you do a really great job, you’re going to make connections and it’s going to open doors for you.”
Christian was a Next Move intern during his junior and senior years at SAMI. He spent his junior year in a sixth-grade classroom at Truman Middle School and later interned with the Assistant Principal at McCarver Elementary School.
“During those internships, I learned that I wanted to work with youth,” Christian explains. “Growing up, I had people invest in my future and education. Going through those internships, I wanted to make sure that I was doing the same for others.”
Now a Day Camp Director at the YMCA of Pierce and Kitsap County, Christian hosts his own interns from the Next Move program. Last fall, he hosted high school senior Jake Andersen, who assisted in planning programs and winter camps.
“It’s been really cool to be in a position where now I am able to invest in the life of these kids,” says Christian. “At times, I saw a little bit of me in him: that passion that he had to help kids and the passion that he had to serve his community.”
Christian and Jake worked together for the duration of that semester. Jake says that the experience he gained while interning with Christian is not something that can be taught in a classroom.
“Planning days of day camp was a particularly educational experience,” he points out. “Christian taught me how to find online resources and fill out official day camp planning forms.”
“When he told me that he would actually be using the plans I made, I felt like a fellow employee rather than just a student observer.”
That is, ultimately, the goal of this program: to provide meaningful experiences that serve as a jumping point to each student’s professional future.
The next step for Next Move, says Brittany, is to create the capacity to capture data. In the meantime, they continue to assist students in gaining the experience necessary to succeed in the workplace.
“The key to this is that we are providing opportunities for students to learn more about what they want to do, and to learn more about themselves in the process,” says Christian.
Equalizing the school levy cap is the most pressing policy the Foundation for Tacoma Students is advocating for in 2019. Current law restricts Tacoma to collecting $1,500 per student, while higher property value districts like Seattle are collecting $2,500. We are asking the state to equalize the cap so that all districts can collect the same amount, and Tacoma Public Schools can collect the per-student dollar amount that local voters have approved. Join us in asking the state to LET US DECIDE to invest in our local programs so that we can keep up the momentum for every child and continue to build innovative supports like the Next Move internship program.
Click here to opt-in to receive text messages from Graduate Tacoma regarding rapid information on our efforts and simple actions you can take. You can also learn more about the Foundation’s advocacy by visiting our advocacy webpage.