Students find new inquiry and new inspiration during Interim Week
By Dean Patterson
If you could leave your regular job and parachute into a new professional role for just one week—trading cardiologist for foreign service officer, account executive for urban planner—what would you try?
That kind of brief, invigorating break from usual life would not be unlike what Upper School students at Parker experience during Interim Week. For five days, they can choose their own adventure, selecting an enrichment experience that takes them outside the traditional classroom curriculum.
Interim Week courses derive their unique nature—and depth of content— from the expertise and connections of the Parker community. Students might discover a new interest, refresh their thinking or see a way in which their regular-semester studies play out in the real world.
One opportunity offered during Interim Week is the Internship Program which matches juniors and seniors with job shadowing experiences. The program allows students to test the waters of real-world experiences in business, government and other professional careers. Students enjoy internships with software developers, architects, doctors, theater directors and environmental scientists, to name a few.
Lexi Castillo, Class of 2018, has dreamt of becoming a doctor since she was a young girl. Through Parker’s Internship Program, she was able to experience a hospital internship. A normal experience for pre-med students, the chance to shadow a surgeon is rare for high schoolers. Matched with Parker parent Dr. Jeff Smith and Dr. Timothy Watt at Sharp Memorial Hospital, she asked that “nothing be held back.” During the course of the week, she was front and center for everything from the emergency room to neurosurgery.
“There is absolutely no doubt in my mind after this internship that I want to become a doctor. To me I don’t think there is any other job that is nearly as rewarding,” said Lexi.
Another course allowed students to try their hand at entrepreneurship. The Entrepreneurship and Innovation Executive Training Program immersed students in brainstorming business ideas, identifying target markets, developing strategies and, perhaps most important, overcoming common obstacles to launching a company. Parker students delved into these issues with entrepreneurship experts, including program leader Tina Klein, Ph.D., Executive Director of Launchpad at UCSD’s Rady School of Management, and keynote speaker Bryan Pate, CEO of startup ElliptiGo.
“I have never had so many good questions from any group—and that includes MBA students and business people,” Pate said. Klein commented that Parker students were unusually unbound by convention, assimilating information that was entirely new and using it to create viable concepts for new products.
The great outdoors was the classroom setting for the course titled Writing, Nature, Solitude. Students hit the trails of San Diego’s backcountry with their notebooks and creative energy in hand.
With the benefit of quiet time to meditate, students read and reflected on the language of great nature writers, including Henry David Thoreau and Edward Abbey.
“My appreciation for nature and hiking has increased,” said Natalie Schmidt ʼ15. “In the future, there will be plenty more hikes, camping, blisters and throwing apple cores off cliffs.”
Meanwhile, the course in leadership offered the perfect opportunity for students who sought an experience that paired challenge with fun.
Interim Week took Parker students to Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, where they learned from the experiences of Osprey pilots and had the chance to step into a flight simulator. The true value of the course lay in understanding the values that enable an individual to guide, develop and lead others.
Ryan Sanborn, Class of 2019, enjoyed the opportunity “to look deeper into what makes a person an effective leader. The experience helped me become a better leader myself.”
Some students who wanted to spend the week cultivating their creative sides, found their course match in A Glimpse Through Stained Glass.
Participants learned two methods of stained glass window construction— lead came and copper foil—and got to make their own stained glass. By week’s end, they had beautiful pieces to display in their windows at home.
“My favorite part was being able to create a beautiful work of art,” said Emily Wang, Class of 2019. “It took lots of patience and concentration every day, yet I enjoyed working on my project and going to class each morning.”
Interim Week offers students not only an opportunity to experiment with a new area of learning, but also a chance to achieve their first milestone in it, whether it’s a first glass creation or a first successful simulator flight. The week is a testament to how an experience outside the familiar slate of Upper School courses and outside one’s comfort zone might provide a completely new source of inspiration.