On the importance of experiential learning opportunities

Dr. Debbie Jones

Superintendent, Bentonville Public Schools

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The secret to engaging kids is finding their passion and getting them excited to come to school every day. We have a community of businesses that is willing to take our kids in, let them apprentice, and give them real projects.

We know we prepared them—and it began with them having a place in our schools where they felt welcome, where they felt important, and where they felt loved.”

With Ignite, Bentonville Schools’ professional studies program, it’s the difference between reading about something and doing it firsthand. Our medical students have observed open-heart surgeries. How many kids have the chance to do that? It’s the coolest thing. That’s the inspiration that gets them into a medical career. Our IT kids go on to work with all kinds of different companies. They’re prepared to go on to a great career or go to college.

As we send our students out to apprentice with different businesses, I expect good feedback. They dress like professionals. They follow the same rules that the companies follow. If they’re running late for their apprenticeship, I want to know that because that’s not our standard. It prepares students for the day when they will walk into a real job.

What makes us so successful is that it’s not just me telling everyone about our exceptional students. The police chief is telling everyone. The entrepreneur startups are saying, “Hey, I can get a high school kid to come write this program for us.” We have so many people in this city talking about our students.

The school district is the foundation for everything we do in Bentonville. It’s imperative that your school district be a place where kids can not only live up to their potential, but also have a community that wraps around them and is there to support them in whatever challenges they experience in life. Schools in northwest Arkansas work really hard to make opportunities that engage kids in areas where they can be passionate and excel. It always makes me proud to see our best and brightest go into really impressive careers and go to work in our community. We know we prepared them—and it began with them having a place in our schools where they felt welcome, where they felt important, and where they felt loved.

Debbie Jones
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