'Real world' career exploration program set to expand

As a job shadow at Cox South Hospital, a Springfield high school student was following a respiratory care specialist when a patient, in the middle of a coughing fit, went into cardiac arrest.

The teen stayed out of the way and observed as the specialist — and a team of other medical professionals — used their training to try and save the man's life.

"The person I was job shadowing went into the room and started (chest) compressions," said Camden Schmitz, who attends Kickapoo High School. "It was interesting to see what really happens and what everyone's roles are.

"It's not like reading about it in books."

Schmitz is one of more than 100 area high school upperclassmen enrolled in the Greater Ozarks Centers for Advanced Professional Studies, started in August. The program offers hands-on exploration in three career strands — medicine and health care, entrepreneurship, and engineering and manufacturing. A new strand, technology solutions, is in the planning stages.

The GO CAPS program, as it is known, allows students to leave their high schools for half a day to learn in actual work settings including a hospital, manufacturing plant and center for business incubation. They job-shadow professionals in their chosen career field, complete internships and tackle "real world" projects with business and industry partners.

"We are not housed in one location but have prioritized our students being out in various centers of learning, in our regional businesses," said Lindsay Haymes, executive director of GO CAPS. "We are proud of the fact that we have students job shadowing and working not only across Springfield but in Branson, Bolivar, Strafford, Ozarks — just to name a few of our regional locations."

Springfield Superintendent John Jungmann helped establish a similar program in the Kansas City and advocated for creating GO CAPS, along with area school leaders. He said the first year is off to a strong start and expansion plans are underway.

"It's right on track and even exceeding expectations," he said. "Anytime you start a new program with this many business partners and districts, there are going to be bumps along the way. But we are pleased with the results."

The hallmark of GO CAPS is hands-on, project-based work and career exploration. For that reason, it is open to any high school junior and seniors who live in the participating school districts, as long as they have good behavior and attendance.

"It's experience-based education," Jungmann said. "We don't want to limit any student from accessing an experience that might shape their career decisions."

Jungmann said interest in the program continues to grow. Applications are now being accepted for the 2016-17 school year, and a series of open houses have been scheduled in January so students and parents can tour classrooms, meet instructors and ask questions.

He urged students to consider the option: "Come to an open house, talk to teachers, talk to students and see if this is the right fit."

They can also learn more about the new career strand, technology solutions, which includes information technology, computer programming, interactive Web and media design and computer information systems, or CIS.

"Students will interact with professional computer science engineers and professionals from IT, CIS and software development companies, exploring the variety of career options in the technology space," Haymes said.

In early December, students interested in manufacturing and engineering toured the NorthStar Battery Company, seeing parts of the local plant that are not typically open to the public.

Haymes said that type of access is not unusual, with many businesses coming forward to offer tours and provide guest speakers and other resources.

"We probably remain steady with students interacting with businesses three to four times a week and it's a different business every time," she said. "It's really neat to see these connections forming and the light bulbs going on."

At the eFactory, a business incubator, students Cameron McMurtrey and Elijah Cloud, in the entrepreneurship strand, are developing a business plan for a company that will provide "short ride" transportation options in areas, such as college campuses, where parking can be difficult.

Through the GO CAPS program, which exposed them to entrepreneurs, they have researched the idea, explored funding options and hope to develop their concept into a start-up business.

"Its definitely reinforced the fact that I want to do business," said McMurtrey, a senior at Willard High. "Before this class, I saw business through tinted windows. It seems more like real-world and tangible, like I can do this."

Their instructor, Sarah Clayton, said students' confidence grows when they "know what is possible."

Clayton's role is different in GO CAPs, transitioning from instructor to facilitator. She also coaches students on presentation skills, everything from wearing proper business attire to maintaining eye contact.

"It's not just knowledge, it's 21st century skills they need to be successful, like how to communicate," she said. "It's a boot camp for professionalism."

In a classroom at Cox North hospital, the home base for the medicine and health care career strand, instructor Chris Adams oversees a wide range of student projects.

For example, several students are working on creating a plan to reinstate gift baskets for grieving families.

Representatives from the local hospital systems told the students the hospitals used to provide packages to give family members who lose a loved one and would like to bring them back.

"They actually reached out to us," said Kaycee Small, a student from Ozark High School. "It was on their back burner, but they didn't have the time or people to work on it."

Other students working on the project include Oscar Donjuan from Central High, Matthew Richardson from Branson High, and Fallon Hudak and Bethany Blain from Glendale High.

Later this semester, they will present their ideas to the hospitals.

Keaton Amstutz, a student from Ozark High, is enrolled in the medicine and health care strand because he is considering a career as a physician assistant. In a visit to a hospital pathology lab, he was able to look at human cells under a microscope.

"It's definitely eye-opening," he said. "When you are job shadowing, you are basically doing the job with them. It's really on the cutting edge."

Ashley Parker, a senior at Kickapoo, is leaning toward nursing and hopes experiences in the GO CAPS program will help her make up her mind. One of her projects is working with the Springfield-Greene County Health Department to develop hygiene posters, similar to the ones posted at restaurants, that are aimed at churches and sporting events.

Another of Parker's projects is a pill organizer with built-in reminders that will alert a caregiver if a prescription has been skipped.

"It's been a good experience, it's definitely worth it," she said. "It's more real world."

Open houses

Three open houses have been scheduled for high school students to find out more about the Greater Ozarks Centers for Advanced Professional Studies career strands.

• Medicine and health care — 6 p.m. Monday, Jan. 25 at Cox North Hospital, Room L-141, 1423 N. Jefferson Ave.

• Engineering, manufacturing and technology solutions — 6 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 26 at Springfield ReManufacturing Corp., 3055 E. Division St.

• Entrepreneurship — 6 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 28 at The eFactory, Room 1023, 405 N. Jefferson Ave.

Want to apply?

The program is open to high school juniors and seniors. Students can apply by contacting their high school counselor and filling out the application at www.springfieldchamber.com/gocaps.

Participating districts pay tuition — roughly $1,500 per student, per semester — and business partners contribute staff time, facilities and equipment. 

Students participate in either a morning or afternoon session every day of the school year, earning high school credit. Dual credit is also possible through Missouri State University and Ozarks Technical Community College. The morning session is 8 to 10:30 a.m. and the afternoon session is noon to 2:30 p.m. 

The program is open to all juniors and seniors who reside within the following school districts: Bolivar, Branson, Logan-Rogersville, Marshfield, Nixa, Ozark, Reeds Spring, Republic, Springfield, Strafford and Willard.

Career strands

• Medicine and health care —  Cox North Hospital

• Engineering and manufacturing — Springfield ReManufacturing Corp., or SRC

• Entrepreneurship — The eFactory at Missouri State University

• Technology Solutions — location yet to be determined, starts this year