Highline Big Picture High School: real world career experiences drive education

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[EDITOR’S NOTE: Over the last four years, B-Town Blog Founder/Publisher Scott Schaefer has served as a Mentor to three students from Burien’s Big Picture High School. His current Intern Bryan Charles is a senior who will be (gulp) graduating this June and moving onto college before becoming a famous and incredibly successful Animator. Schaefer highly recommends Mentoring as a way to give back to the community…]

by Nancy Pappas

Gianna is interested in archeology. With a lot of research, perseverance, and professionalism, she contacted our state archeologist.  She received a response within an hour!  It was a wonderfully rich conversation, but she realized it may be a stretch to find an internship at an archeological dig. Her conversation with him did, however, steer her to contact an art museum to arrange an informational interview. Gianna pursued a career interest and is excited about the possibilities.

On Tuesdays and Thursdays, Logan reports a few minutes early to his internship. The opportunity was posted and it sparked his interest, so he ‘applied’ for the internship.  His mentor worked with him to develop a good and meaningful learning plan. Each day he learns more and more about the worksite itself, but also he learns valuable life lessons including developing realistic priorities, communicating with customers, and improving time management skills.

Whether they find their own beyond-the-classroom opportunity or respond to a posted opportunity, Highline Big Picture high school students spend time each week at a meaningful, interest-based real world career experience. At the core of the school’s approach is developing close relationships with students and families, and helping students identify what they are passionate about. This motivation is then harnessed to drive rigorous learning connected to real world work experiences in real workplaces.

Opened in 2005, Highline Big Picture School (HBPS) is one of three Washington state college preparatory high schools authorized by the State Board of Education to graduate students based on demonstrated competencies rather than accumulated credits.

On any given Tuesday or Thursday during the school year, you can find HBPS students taking a bus to their internship worksite, exploring new interests at local businesses, and networking with professionals in industries ranging from health clubs to restaurants to schools.

This innovative approach to delivering career readiness doesn’t happen overnight and it takes many supporters to ensure student success.  HBPS students have a professional relationship with over 100 mentors in over 70 organizations.Many thanks to the companies and organizations who partner with school staff to make innovative education happen, one student at a time.

Many ways to get involved:

Mentors can: host an internship, share network connections, observe showcased projects, contribute to career trend research, become a virtual mentor, help students practice workplace skills, be a guest speaker, develop field trips, or become part of the HBPS Advisory Committee.

To learn more about getting involved, contact Nancy Pappas, Program Developer at Highline Big Picture School, [email protected]ools.org, or call 206.631.7700.

NOTE: Previous Big Picture Interns at The B-Town Blog have included (click names to see their work)


New mentors attend a recently introduced program, Mentor Coffee Talk, and hear from HBPS Co-Principals Garth Reeves and Loren Demeroutis.


Nancy Pappas with two interns during the Grand Opening of the Student Learning Through Internships HUB.

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