By CALEB SLINKARD
The Greenville High School cafeteria was full of dozens of students Thursday night giving presentations on a wide variety of subjects, from fitness and health to mathematics and engineering.
These students were explaining aspects of careers, not that they learned in a classroom, but that they’ve experienced firsthand, thanks to Greenville ISD’s Independent Study Mentorship Program (ISM).
Joan Nelson is in charge of ISM, and also teaches pre-AP English classes at GHS. Each year she interviews the dozens of students that apply for the program, available to juniors and seniors, and then selects students she believes are a good fit for ISM.
“It’s a research/mentorship program, so the students first conduct research on the career they’re interested in,” Nelson said. “Then they go out and interview people in the community who are part of that professional field and tell me who they think they would work best with.”
Nelson said that she has 75 students in ISM, the largest class in a program that has been running for more than decade.
“They meet with their mentors at least once a week during their class period, and are responsible for taking everything they’ve learned and producing a product with real-world use,” she said, adding that through the years she’s seen everything from a robot that could fold clothes to a replica of the human digestive system. “We’re fortunate to have L-3 [Mission Integration] here; the engineers work with the engineering students, and it’s a great opportunity for them.”
Nelson said some students are working with architects in Rockwall and Plano, and two of them have even been asked to design a theater.
Thursday night, ISM students made mid-way presentations on their progress for their mentors, families and other students. The final presentation will be held in May.
“The program works both ways: some students get into it and think, ‘Oh this is great, I really like this,’” Nelson said. “Others may find out the career is not for them. It gives them hands-on experience and an opportunity to see what they like or dislike, so when they go to college they’re not wasting their time or money on a career they’re not going to enjoy.”