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Support Internships - They are Valuable and Needed

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The following post is by guest blogger Victor L. Horton who was offered an internship appointment at the Prichard Committee through the Southern Education Foundation. He is a 2010 graduate of Virginia State University where he received his undergraduate degree in Business Administration. Currently he is finishing up his Masters of Public Administration at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia with the tentative graduation date of May 2014.

When I was made aware of the incredible opportunity to intern for the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence, I was anxious, overwhelmed, and nervous. Little did I know that I would be in great hands working with the organization, and I would be afforded the opportunity to gain a wealth of knowledge on Public Engagement and Education Reform.

My experience at the Prichard Committee has taught me many lessons--the first being that collaboration is key! During my tenure at the Prichard Committee, I saw the organization firsthand work with entities across various fields of interest. This included members of the business community, PTAs, major foundations, boards of education, and even healthcare organizations. This can somewhat be attributed to how infused the arms of education are in every aspect of our country, states, and lives, but I believe that the committee is dedicated to excellence and believes that having these diverse stakeholders at the table increases the likelihood that policy will be created that will have the best outcomes for our children.

One of my many highlights this summer was being able to attend a Prichard Committee board meeting. I witnessed Kentucky high school students speak about their educational experience and why they felt it was important for them to be a part of the major decisions that affect them. Hearing these passionate youth was very inspirational and opened my eyes to see that kids should have a voice in their learning. It sounds as though this should be a highly practiced philosophy, but if you look around the country, I am certain you will see many states do not look to children for educational improvements. I found that if we systematically engage students in the decision-making process, it would allow children to take selected responsibilities for their education. Additionally, allowing students to participate in curriculum selection, calendar planning, hiring of educators, school assessment, and even having a position on boards of education on the local, state and federal levels could have major positive implications on education.

Another lesson learned is that building community support is critical. The statement, "there is strength in numbers" is not more relevant anywhere than in education reform. More often than not, it takes a chorus of voices for a grandiose policy change to take effect. Being able to rally large groups of individuals with similar thinking can send a direct message to policymakers. The Prichard Committee executes this very well. Seeing Prichard's work on the Governor's Commonwealth Institute for Parent Leadership is evidence enough to show their commitment to building community support. GCIPL aims to teach parents and adults about the public education system in Kentucky, as well as enhance their leadership and communication skills. The program offers a great opportunity for those in the community who are interested in creating progressive change to attain the skillsets to effectively do so.

Now as an ambitious graduate student that is back in his native state of Virginia, I am heavily armored to address the educational concerns for my own Commonwealth. With my passion and dedication to education reform, complimented by the experience I had this summer, I can assure you that education in Virginia has a bright future.

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