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PrepNet Virtual Academy Goes Extra Mile to Give Students Career Advice, Job Shadowing

PrepNet Virtual Academy parents and staff trekked many miles, sacrificed some sleep, and lined up several presenters, but it was all worth it to get students on track for their careers.
Five seniors made the trip to job shadow Steelcase employees on Feb. 6, while PrepNet Virtual Academy hosted its second virtual job fair March 1. The logistics differed for the events, but both were extensively planned and exemplified the commitment those at PrepNet Virtual Academy show in providing a well-rounded K-12 online education.

students in a video call. 
“Even virtually, we successfully can do these things,” said Amy Teske, college and career counselor. “I want our parents to know that just like a brick and mortar, we can do this as well.”
In-person job shadowing
The students who went to Steelcase headquarters in Grand Rapids got to talk to engineers and learned about the process of building products, from how a chair is designed to how it is packaged.
Four seniors in the Detroit area and one in West Michigan made the trip. The day began with their parents getting them to a central location in Redford at 5:30 a.m., and they didn’t return until 4:30 p.m.

Students touring Steelcase. 
“The kids really felt like this was worth the early hours and they appreciated the efforts that the adults put into this for them to have this experience,” Teske said. “They came out of it learning a lot and were excited that they made this effort to go.”
David Prindle, technology teacher/coordinator, accompanied the students. They went into the experience not knowing what goes into making office furniture from start to finish and left with a greater appreciation of the process.

Students job shadowing 
Students picked the brains of Steelcase employees, such as inquiring about the process of making a mesh-back chair comfortable. They were enlightened on the years-long process of getting a product to market. And thanks to a worker who specializes in plastic injection molding, they left Steelcase able to identify the injectors and realized that engineers love solving an unsolvable problem.
“They said, ‘What are we going to learn here? It’s just office furniture. How much engineering can there be?’ They all really enjoyed it and didn’t realize how much it takes to build a piece of furniture,” Prindle said. “They didn’t realize everything is engineered, whether it’s their computer or a bag of Cheetos. It brought a new awareness of what engineering is to them.”
Virtual job fair
PrepNet Virtual Academy’s second virtual job fair had 284 participants, including staff and presenters ranging from music and theatre to law enforcement and hospitality.
Students heard three 20-minute sessions and concluded with a Q&A. The presenters included Lakyra Shackelford, hospitality consulting firm owner; Mike White, law enforcement; Jess Burke, theatre manager; Craig Krolicki, music; Amy Barnhart, hospitality (event planning); Nickie Laney, teacher/educator; Abby Spickard, audit/CPA/recruiting; Katherine Seeber, archeologist; Chelsea Seeber, communications for computer engineering; David Kilbert, IT; Griffin King, accounting/consulting; Dale Schriemer, college professor; and Jaime Lightfoot, software development/cyber security.

Students on a video call. 
A 20-minute Q&A wasn’t enough to satisfy students’ curiosity, as they asked to forward even more questions to the presenters afterward.
“They asked really great questions,” Teske said. “The staff feedback was it was another success. They really loved how we do this.”
About PrepNet Virtual Academy
PrepNet Virtual Academy is a tuition-free, public charter school in Grand Rapids, Michigan, serving students in kindergarten through 12th grade. It is part of the National Heritage Academies network, which includes 99 tuition-free, public charter schools serving more than 65,000 students in kindergarten through 12th grade across nine states. For more information, visit

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