Getting practical at Tolles’ Real World Institute

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Luis Ramirez, a senior at Tolles Career and Technical Center, learns how to change a tire during the school’s one-day Real World Institute. Miles Kieffer (back), auto collision instructor, provides guidance. The program’s goal is to teach students practical skills they can use in their transition from the classroom to the real world.

(Posted May 23, 2018)

By Dedra Cordle, Staff Writer

“I’m never going to use this in the real world” is a common refrain among students when presented with a subject for which they don’t see a practical use in the future. That refrain was not uttered, however, by students who participated in “The Real World Institute” at Tolles Career and Technical Center on May 16.

Institute sessions ran the gamut from personal finance to laundry, providing seniors with information helpful to their transition from the classroom to the “real world.”

After an overview of what was to come, students broke into smaller groups, rotating among several classrooms, each with a different theme. In one, they cut coupons as they learned about budgets. In another, they prepared quick and easy meals.

“We wanted this to be a real experience for them,” said Julie Steiner, a math instructor and intervention specialist who helped to organize the Institute. “These are all valuable skills to make life a little easier.”

An instructor-led dream innovation team at Tolles came up with “The Real World Institute” idea while brainstorming ways to help students prepare for life beyond classroom and career training. During a meeting, a team member recalled a conference at which representatives of another school district talked about creating “life lesson session” covering topics not traditionally found in the classroom.

“We thought it was a great idea and wanted to build upon that,” Steiner said.

The goal was to give seniors a basic look at life after graduation.

“We wanted to teach them about personal finance, how to prepare taxes, how to budget, how to build credit,” Steiner said.

Initially, the plan was to present it as a limited course offering, that is until other instructors got wind of the it.

“Our exercise science instructor wanted to give lessons on stress reduction through yoga, and our criminal justice instructor wanted to give a lesson on personal safety,” Steiner said.

Yesenia Perez (left) works with Gabe Wholaver to make a meatball during a Real World Institute cooking class.

Participation snowballed. One instructor uses hacks to maintain the cleanliness of his cars and wanted to pass along his knowledge. Another is passionate about animals and wanted students to know just how expensive they can be. Another believes in the rights of apartment dwellers and wanted the students to know what theirs are when the day comes that they rent an apartment.

In total, the Institute featured 23 information sessions.

“From everything I have heard thus far, the seniors really enjoyed this day and said they learned so much from it,” Steiner said.

She plans to gather more feedback from students and instructors for future Real World Institute programs.

“The prospect of adulthood can be overwhelming, and we want to do what we can to help them prepare for it,” Steiner said.

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