Frisco ISD has distinguished itself among other school districts due to high-achieving students and quality academic curriculum. Through countless courses such as the Advanced Placement Capstone Program, Incubator, and the most recently implemented International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme, the district has taken tremendous steps to increase available opportunities for its students, and more people are starting to take notice. One program, in particular, Independent Study and Mentorship, is finally earning the recognition it deserves, consequently helping more students acquire the real-world experience they need to gain acceptance to prestigious colleges.
Independent Study and Mentorship, known as ISM, is a program through which high school juniors and seniors have the opportunity to conduct a year-long study in a career field that interests them or that they intend to pursue. Founded at Frisco High School in 2002, this unique course allows students to break free of the traditional classroom setting and take initiative to progress their learning by granting them the freedom to choose what they research and work at an individually-set pace.
Along with a focused research topic, students build a network and begin to construct their images as young professionals by reaching out to people working in their desired field. At the end of the first semester, students present an original work they have created that embodies the epitome of their primary and secondary research up to that point. At the end of the year, students host a final presentation that collectively represents their journey and personal growth within a final product. To participate in the course, students must undergo a rigorous application process involving several teacher recommendations, multiple essays, and a formal interview. Due to its increasingly competitive and prestigious nature, ISM has the privilege to boast responsible student professionals who represent their respective high schools and the program as a whole with excellence and integrity.
On Wednesday, January 16th, the third annual ISM Research Showcase was held at The Star as a center for student professionals all across the district to display their semester projects. Rows upon rows of passionate students neatly lined the turf and independent study topics from electrical engineering to midwifery littered each silver-clothed table. A beautifully orchestrated chaos of supportive family and friends, curious visitors, and thoughtful professionals created the symphony of enthusiasm needed to keep programs like ISM thriving. Each year, the Research Showcase increases in scale, and the transition from school cafeteria to football stadium becomes an even greater achievement for Frisco ISD. Nearby school districts have already taken notice and implemented similar programs in an attempt to distinguish their students as well. As the pilot of ISM, Frisco ISD sets the standard. This is why it is important to make professionals in the area aware of what exactly students nearby are beginning to achieve.
Connecting the Business Community
If the ISM program were a heart, willing professionals would be the blood that keeps it pumping. It is important, first, to understand that an ISM student’s goal is simply to learn. They are grateful for any information, experience, or advice a professional they connect with has to offer.
One of the first things students will do when beginning the program is set up a LinkedIn account and begin connecting with professionals in their area of interest. In the past, some confusion has developed concerning the legitimacy of ISM and its students. However, there is a certain formula students are required to follow when initially communicating with professionals, and if a person were to receive several messages it may seem strange, but, in truth, there lies a timid student nervously navigating the open ocean of professionalism for the first time behind that structured paragraph of text. Students also leave the contact information of their ISM teacher at the end of the first few messages after they connect with a professional, so that is another way to ensure the validity of the program.
After students have spent some time connecting with professionals, they will begin to search for people to conduct an informational interview with in hopes of finding a mentor for the year. This is the perfect opportunity for a professional to get involved with the program. Even if they do not have the time to commit to mentoring a student for the year, an interview in person or over the phone is just as valued. The business symposium hosted every October is also a great place to volunteer and speak to multiple students about their future plans, give advice on their résumés, and even mock interview them. If a professional is willing to dedicate the time to mentor a student, they will have solace in knowing that the student will be responsible, dedicated, and truly passionate about what they are studying. Whether it is inviting them to a press conference, an open heart surgery, or even to watch what goes on in the everyday office, ISM students appreciate the time that each professional spends helping them gain real-world experience. Not only that, but the stories told and retold of the joy of mentoring young, eager minds serves as chicken soup for the soul, and the connections that students and professionals create can last a lifetime.
Leaders of Tomorrow
The future looks brighter, and the grass looks greener with the hope of programs like ISM shining their light on the world. Frisco is a city brimming with opportunities, and ISM needs the help of experienced and willing professionals to offer wisdom on their careers so that the program can continue to flourish and grow. Consider adding a student to the team at the office, because their ideas could add a new perspective the company is looking for. From Whataburger’s Friday Night Stars to countless research papers, prototypes, and patents, ISM students continue to make their mark on Frisco and North Texas. The leaders of tomorrow are knocking on Frisco’s doors today—make sure to answer.