Earlier this week, five of the 20-plus Harwood Union High School students who participated in Flexible Pathways participated in a panel discussion for the public and the school community.

With their mentors as well as the educators who helped match them to their work/learning opportunities, they discussed their experiences in the program over the year.

A student with an interest in medicine was able to intern in an emergency room where she checked patients in and did basic assessments such as taking blood pressure.

Another with a keen interest in music was able to work as an intern writing music critiques for Seven Days and later did dual enrollment at St. Michael’s College.

A student fascinated by anatomy and sports was able to work with Harwood’s athletic trainer who created a curriculum for the student that allowed her to see how and why working with student athletes was fun and challenging.

Another student was connected with Valley Arts as an intern, working in marketing and communications for that local nonprofit, and the fifth student to participate in this week’s panel worked as an intern with a global nonprofit dedicated to curing blindness.

Flexible Pathways offers high school students the chance to pursue alternative learning opportunities through internships and higher education outside of their home schools.

As has been noted in this space before, the ability for high school students to get a year of college under their belts can offer a significant financial savings in terms of college tuition.

What’s impressive about the program and how it is handled locally is the connections it forges between the school and others in our community who might not have much by way of interaction with high school students. The response from the mentors and organizations who take on interns is glowing and reinforces the importance of forging connections between our schools and the parts of our community.

The success of the program hinges on students being willing to step out of their comfort zone. It requires local businesspeople and others being willing to take on an intern to mentor. But what really holds it together is the dedication of the staffers, Rachael Potts and Ellen Berrings, who put it all together and coordinate the day-to-day workings of the program.