Field Study program makes powerful impact

Quakertown Community School District  |  Posted on

A student thought enough of Brooke Ziemba to make a nameplate for the Field Study student teacher.

Nicole Pasciuti’s internship with the Upper Bucks Free Press (UBFP) provided the Quakertown Community High School (QCHS) junior with the perfect opportunity to discover whether her passion for English and for writing would fit into a career as a journalist.

Thanks to the high school’s Field Study program, her experience at the UBFP helped her answer that question and save a lot of time and money in the process. “The experience I had was amazing,” said Nicole, who learned that a journalism career is not something she will pursue. “I understand journalism a lot more now and it’s way different than I expected. Now I know not to major in it in college.”

For her Free Press “final project,” Nicole wrote about the importance of her Field Study experience. “I never expected to have opportunities of this magnitude in high school, so being able to experience them is amazing,” she stated. “I hope this program sticks around so other teenagers get to enjoy an experience like mine.”

Jennifer Carolla, a high school assistant principal and co-administrator with Jason Magditch of the Career Pathways program, in which Field Study is a component, appreciated Nicole’s sentiments. “Our hope in building a Pathways program that emphasized Field Study experiences was to encourage students to participate in real-world learning opportunities,” Mrs. Carolla said. “Nicole’s story is one example of the positive impact that an experience like that can have on a student. Students walk away from a Field Study having developed a greater employability skill set and having acquired a deeper knowledge of themselves and the field. Plus, according to the feedback we are getting from students, it’s fun to try something outside of the traditional classroom for high school credit(s),” said Mrs. Carolla.

According to Mrs. Carolla, one of the things the Pathways team consistently highlights is that it’s as important to find out what you don’t like as it is to find out what you do like, which is exactly what Nicole did through her Field Study. “Empowering students to make more informed and thoughtful decisions about their postsecondary plans is a main goal of our Pathways program,” Mrs. Carolla said.

Field Study experiences are open to all juniors and seniors at QCHS. Within the first semester at the high school, 56 students completed a Field Study. The career fields represented were quite varied. In addition to the Free Press, examples of student placements include the Lehigh Valley IronPigs, The Upper Bucks Chamber of Commerce, Stranix Taxidermy, Value Engineering Inc., St. Luke’s Pharmacy, a dance studio, recording studio, environmental management company, chiropractic office, veterinary services, and local school districts, including Quakertown Community.

As part of the Field Study requirements, feedback on student performance and professional skills is collected from each career mentor using the school’s Pathways Field Study rubric. Pathways Coordinators George Banas and Laura Neilson then meet with each student to review that feedback and to listen to student reflections on their experience.

“Quakertown is doing something other schools are not doing,” said Marie Robinson, whose son, Will, an aspiring sports marketer, enjoyed his Field Study experience with the IronPigs. “They recognize the need for this and give students this connection to the workforce before they even go to college or enter the workforce. These are amazing learning experiences these students are getting.”

Will, a senior, said, “For what I want to do later in life, to have these day-to-day experiences really worked to prepare me. I thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience.”

Brooke Ziemba, a senior and drum major in the Panthers Marching Band, is working at Strayer Middle School with Rachael Urquhart, its band director, to see everything that job entails. One day in class, a student handed her a nameplate for her desk. Brooke was beaming. “It really opened my eyes that I can make a difference,” she said. “I am really making an impact. That was really special. I knew it was from the heart and I had made a strong connection.” Brooke posted a photo of the nameplate to Twitter with the words “One of the middle schoolers I field study with made me this sign :,) Can’t wait to be a band teacher! @StrayerMSBand”

Mrs. Carolla and Mr. Magditch, the Field Study administrators, acknowledge that these opportunities for students would not be possible without the support of the local community. “Our school district is part of a very special community,” Mrs. Carolla said. “We are incredibly grateful to our many industry partners who invest their time, energy and knowledge to help our students better prepare for their future. These are powerful school/community partnerships that we look forward to growing as our Pathways program continues to evolve.”