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Bright Futures Bootcamp: Laying a Foundation for Success & Scholarship

By Arnesa A. Howell

What’s in a name? Well, everything from the moniker of the Bright Futures Bootcamp. “We are trying to help our students build bright futures for themselves,” says Emille Robinson, facilitator of the career fluency-centric bootcamp, which held sessions Friday afternoons during the 2017-2018 academic school year.

For almost eight years, the Bright Futures Bootcamp has largely equipped students from the Academy of Construction and Design (ACAD) with life and career skills to be successful in the “real world.” Whether aspiring to enter college or the workforce, they have experienced opportunities from speed networking with business industry leaders to elevator pitch sessions with peers. “There are some basic ‘survival’ skills students need once they graduate, and unfortunately, most don’t get this information anywhere else.The bootcamp tries to fill in this gap for Academy and other students,” Robinson explains.

Yes, the bootcamp helps students break out of the “cocoon” of their school environment to learn the basic building blocks of the business world: telephone etiquette, writing a professional email, interviewing, networking and personal presentation, according to Robinson. “Many of these students have no idea about how to navigate the worlds of work and higher education,” she says. “I hope that their take-away is a greater sense of self-confidence and skills they can build upon to help them grow personally and professionally into adulthood.”

For example, one former bootcamper recalled sharpening the skills introduced in the workshop at home by practicing on maintaining eye contact with his dad—that initiative gave him the confidence to portray a more professional image during an ACAD-hosted networking event.

And while providing valuable life tools for the future, the Bright Futures Bootcamp is also laying the foundation for a more immediate op- portunity: the annual Meet the Future luncheon. Before this year’s Meet the Future luncheon, to be held May 4, these students will officially get to put their skills to the test at a a private reception with construction industry and other business leaders. “A focus of the bootcamp is helping students be more comfortable in presenting themselves to potential employers—learning how to approach and introduce themselves to someone, then start a conversation,” Robinson explains.

The ‘Write’ Stuff
During the semimonthly classes held at IDEA Public Charter School, students also engage their writing skills. For the most dedicated participants, this can be a rewarding experience, culminating in accolades at Meet the Future, which honors ACAD students for their academic achievements, leadership and personal character. That’s because the largest scholarship awarded requires an essay—written during bootcamp. The topics vary from year-to-year, with Robinson helping to guide students through the process. Additional awards are also based on bootcamp participation, alongside input from teachers and Academy leadership.

Despite scheduling challenges that impact consistent student attendance, Robinson says the outlook for the bootcamp remains bright. She hopes for expanded, weekly sessions with support from an additional facilitator. And for the students who commit to showing up and investing in themselves, there is reassurance of success beyond high school. Says Robinson: “We have to help them see the bigger picture and the opportunities ahead for them.”