KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Amid Zona Rosa’s numerous shops and restaurants in the Northland, students in the Park Hill School District are planning for the future.

“I help code with a team for the Cerner status dashboard,” Park Hill Senior Raphael Realina said. “I’m at Berkowitz-Cook, which is a family law firm,” Keely Minard added, also a senior at Park Hill.

Raphael dreams of becoming a game developer for Epic Games after college, while Keely wants to be an attorney.

They’re learning what those jobs entail through local internships, a big component of Park Hill’s Aspiring Professionals Program.

“Our program helps kids prepare for the future. It helps them narrow down their interests before they have to make a choice,” Doctor Christina Courtney said, the Director of Educational Programs. She and other internship facilitators have helped students land six-week internships at local law offices, architectural firms, hospitals, beauty shops and even a tattoo shop.

The district also offers the Medical Professionals Program, which partners with University Health, the University of Kansas, Saint Luke’s North and the Educators Program, which sees juniors and seniors helping student teach at the district’s elementary schools.

Dr. Courtney said while the program isn’t new, the facility at Zona Rosa is new. “We just needed a professional space for [students] to learn their professional skills and be in that professional environment. We were trying to use space within our home high schools, and we realized that in terms of our mission of professionalism and teaching those skills, our students really do benefit from being in a professional setting.” 

The district’s educational programs began seven years ago, growing from 16 students to 348 in just a few years. However, they ran out of space and needed a place that felt almost like a part-time job outside of the school walls.

After renting out the local library for a while amongst other places, they finally found a permanent home in Zona Rosa.

The space houses some district faculty members, two conference rooms, a break room, in-house therapy services and four teaching classrooms, where students can practice building a resume, give mock interviews and learn from guest speakers.

“It’s been a really cool experience to get out of the typical school day and go to something that feels like work,” Minard said.

To get into the programs, students must fill out an application the semester before to show they understand the time commitment involved.

Each student, once in the program, is then able to get dual credit hours through Metropolitan Community College.