When Forest Hill Collegiate Institute grade 12 student, Donte Wallen, told his co-op teacher, Polina Kukar that he wanted to explore the field of Information Technology (IT), Polina reached out to OISE. “I thought of OISE because as both a grad and as sessional faculty I've had really excellent interactions with the team at Education Commons,” says Polina.
Polina earned her Masters and PhD in Social Justice Education at OISE, and is the Assistant Curriculum Leader for Business, Experiential Learning & Computer Studies at Forest Hill CI. One responsibility of this role is assisting her students to find co-op placements. “For those of us who work as school-based co-op teachers, a lot of our success is in the relationships we build with partners at organizations who host and mentor our students.”
Polina reached out to Education Commons and spoke with Daniel Marinos, IT Service Management Coordinator, to see if Education Commons would consider working with Donte. “I was thrilled that Education Commons said yes, that it was something they would be interested in doing. Donte was interviewed. He explained what he hoped to learn and accomplish, and we all agreed it was a good fit.”
Finding secondary students deep, specialized learning opportunities can be difficult. “Creating rich co-op learning opportunities for high school students can be challenging as some organizations are more used to post-secondary co-op students,” notes Polina, who says that a co-op at a secondary level is really beneficial to students and helps students better understand what they want to do further in terms of experiential learning.
Donte began his 200-hour co-op placement with Education Commons in September, where he co-created and followed an individualized learning plan created to explore elements of IT he was interested in.
“I picked IT because it's natural for me, and a direction I think I can grow in,” says Donte who worked with the Service Delivery Specialists (SDS) team providing IT support to the OISE community. Part of his experience included preparing new computers for faculty and staff by learning how to use software for computer imaging and system management. “I learned more about the ins and outs of computers, and a lot of things I didn’t know about before...I built a computer and programmed it over the holiday break using what I've learned from EC.”
He also had the opportunity to learn more about the roles available in IT by speaking with different members of the Education Commons team who work in system and development operations, and application analysis. “This helped me understand the options for working in IT, and I have a better understanding of the direction I want to take in my future.”
About Education Commons, he says, “The people are nice, and extremely welcoming. It’s the kind of place I want to work.”
“It has been a wonderful experience having Donte on the team,” says Daniel Marinos. “Donte is a quick learner, and you can see his passion for technology. He has become a key member of our team, reaching out to the community, preparing devices, resolving issues, and more.“
Donte’s co-op with Education Commons ends on January 20 and we wish him the best on all his future endeavours.