“It’s a way to get hands on experience with a business or corporation that you’re interested in," Rigney said.
COOL Week, or Career Opportunities On Location, is a program in which some seniors from LISD district get the opportunity to try out specific career options and receive real world job experience before graduation.
Leander ISD students Cooper Rigney, Johans Ballestar, Shirel Miller, and Dillon Staniszewki participate in an LISD COOL Week assignment at Cedar Park's Information Services Department.[/caption]
“College is an expensive place to figure out what you want to be when you grow up,” COOL Week Coordinator Pat Lopez said. “COOL Week is our best opportunity for students to experience a career before they go off to college to spend time, energy and money to get a degree in that career field."
Lopez, with the help of the campus coordinators at LISD high schools, evaluates the interests of students participating in COOL week and pairs them with a business or organization in the Austin area. Students spend anywhere from a single day, to an entire week at their assigned job site from Feb. 1-5.
While COOL week can be a fun experience, it is not without its challenges, Lopez said. High school seniors Kelli Niemeyer and Megan Carey spent COOL Week at Cedar Ridge Alzheimer's Special Care Center, where they learned about the effects of dementia.
“Patience is important,” Carey said. “It’s needed for the type of environment we’re in, how to communicate with people who can’t really communicate back.”
Niemeyer plans on becoming a geriatric nurse, and Carey a neurological surgeon.
For most of the students like Carey and Niemeyer, participating in their COOL week assignment includes shadowing an advisor or a staffer at that site who can show students the ropes and what it’s like to work in that specific field.
Along with shadowing an advisor, many students work on specific projects and receive a more in-depth experience of their chosen field.
Cedar Park Information Services Director Tim Scott, a first time COOL week host, planned a wide array of assignments for his COOL week students to participate in to help them understand technology of local government.
“We’ll pair [the students] up with technology staff for the rest of the week,” Scott said. “They’ll help develop maps and even go to a GIS council."
Paige Hoelscher, a Leander student, and champion agility runner, worked at Austin Dog Alliance for COOL Week and learned about dog training.
“They need to see what it’s like,” Austin Dog Alliance Advisor Michele Cuteri said. “It’s an opportunity to experience the nature of the job."
Editor's note: This story was produced by a Leander ISD student as part of a COOL Week internship at Community Impact Newspaper.
Correction: This story has been updated to include the correct title for Cedar Park Information Services Director Tim Scott.