Field Study program makes powerful impact

Nicole Pasciuti’s intern­ship with the Upper Bucks Free Press pro­vid­ed the Quakertown Community High School 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 post-secondary 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 QCSD.

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.”