Dripping Springs High School Cornerstone Program Offers Real-Life Learning Opportunities

Cindy Reynolds briefs the 2017 Leadership Dripping Springs Class on the Cornerstone program. DSHS Principal Joe Burns and Reynolds put the idea of the Cornerstone Program into action in 2014. CENTURY NEWS PHOTO BY JOHN PACHECO

By: 
Anna Martin

 

The Cornerstone Program at Dripping Springs High School provides students with the opportunity to gain real world experience in an area of interest or potential career path, all outside of the classroom. This program provides students with a chance to gain a hands-on perspective in specific careers or majors they may wish to pursue in the future. Having this perspective has aided many students in figuring out what major or career path they would like to pursue after high school. Whether it be through the development of a positive opinion of a potential career—or even determining a vocation is not a good fit—this experience helps students on their journey to find their calling.

“It’s kind of a rite of passage,” said Cindy Reynolds, the Cornerstone Coordinator. “When you’re a senior, you’re already looking at that next step anyway. So why not go explore that to make sure that you’re making the right decision?”

Principal Joe Burns and Mrs. Reynolds put the idea of the Cornerstone Program into action in 2014 by placing three high school seniors in an internship position at Pioneer Bank to gain entrepreneurial business experience. This was just the start to the immense success this program has achieved since.

“We really wanted to design a program that allowed students to explore a career interest or simply just an interest they have in a unique and very relevant environment,” said Principal Joe Burns. “I have always felt that DSHS does a great job preparing students for future education, but could do more to help students discover what they might want to do with their lives.”

Word began to spread to the community about the program, and many companies and establishments reached out to the school to express their interest in acquiring student interns. Word also began to spread among the students, and the following year students were eager to join the Cornerstone Program and began to be placed at all different types of internship positions. Since that original placement of three students four years ago, there are now more than 100 students placed at internships all across Dripping Springs, and in Lakeway and Austin. Companies and organizations of all types are involved in the program. From long-time partners like Kethley Physical Therapy, L2 Aviation, and West Side Veterinary Clinic, to new partners like Austin Fit Body, Starrs on Mercer, and River City Orthopedics, students have many potential options. Despite the massive levels of success this program has achieved, Mrs. Reynolds has not slowed down in finding new businesses and internship opportunities for students.

The internship positions provided by the Cornerstone program benefit both the high school students and the businesses where they are placed. These interns benefit the businesses by providing them with extra hands and eager minds in their establishments. While working with businesses provides students with knowledge and experience, these interns also provide a fresh perspective representing the opinions and input of a younger demographic. Teenage students also can help companies with skills in social media, knowledge of current events, and broadening their horizons and community impact.

Students are encouraged to give feedback to Mrs. Reynolds about their internships. If a certain internship placement or career field doesn’t seem to be working out for a student, he is encouraged to express this to Mrs. Reynolds so that an alternate placement can be found. Students are able to change their internships if they are not enjoying where they are at, because this program is all about giving kids the chance to gain real world experience in something they are interested in and passionate about.

“It’s all about the student’s experience, it’s not about the vision that I, or anyone else, has for them,” said Mrs. Reynolds. “It’s really about what the students like, and if they’re enjoying it, or if they could change something, what would it be? So then, let’s get out there and make it happen.”

Principal Burns agrees that the program has great value for students.

“I hope the Cornerstone Program either solidifies students’ career aspirations or gives them valuable information and experiences on a career path that they now know they do not want to follow,” he said. “Either way, the program provides students an authentic experience that is hard to replicate in the classroom.”

As the writer of this article, I myself have personal experience with the Cornerstone program. I have been interning with Mrs. Dale Whitaker, Director of Communications for the Dripping Springs Independent School District, since the beginning of my senior year. Mrs. Reynolds helped me set up an interview and it was in my hands from then on. I began interning with Mrs. Whitaker shortly after, and will be finishing out the school year working with her. I have only been interning for a little over a semester, but my experiences already have taught me so much. Being able to observe and work alongside a professional in the career I am hoping to pursue has not only given me real world experience, but has helped me a gain a more solid perspective of what I want to do with my life after college. Being an intern for someone in the school district administration is something that I couldn’t imagine being possible if it weren’t for the Cornerstone program.

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