As part of its mission, WSIU works within the community to provide educational opportunities for children and students, from birth to the college level, to help inspire a lifelong passion for learning and help young people achieve an overall higher quality of life. This includes teaming up with area schools, like the Cobden Unit School District in Cobden, Illinois.
April Reiman is the school counselor for Cobden Junior High and High School, which has around 360 students from grades 6 to 12. She wears many hats in this role, from overseeing the social and emotional learning of all students to testing and assessment to college and career readiness. As a small school with a small staff, Cobden faces some challenges when it comes to offering a large variety of courses to students. But April credits the school’s “great staff, who think outside the the box” to come up with hands-on classes like their Adult Living course for seniors.
Last school year, April taught a career exploration class to Cobden eighth graders that focused on career education and exploration. She started with teaching students how to better know themselves as people, how to set goals, how to identify their personal strengths and interests, and the differences between soft and hard job skills. In the second half of the class, April brought in a wide spectrum of community members to talk about their occupations and allow students to ask questions.
From WSIU, TV production specialist Mark St. George came to visit the eighth graders. Before his arrival, April had the students research what is involved in a TV production job and put together a list of 30-40 questions for Mr. St. George rather than have him give a lecture. The student-lead format of the visit “lead to some really great conversations” and the students were highly engaged in the more relaxed, open forum. Mr. St. George shared with the students how some decisions he made even as early as eighth grade helped him on his path to working in television production.
Perhaps the most rewarding part of Mr. St. George’s visit occurred at the end. April shared that one young man, who was typically very quiet and reserved, approached Mr. St. George after the class was over, asking some more questions and sharing his love for design. The student “really lit up and connected with Mr. St. George” and the two even walked out of school together so they could continue the conversation. “That was a good day, a really good day,” April recalled.
Before she became the counselor for Cobden, April spent one year at Carterville on a grant as the Community Liaison. While in this role, April’s students engaged in a media literacy program with WSIU. WSIU staff taught the students how to shoot an instructional video on topics like cyberbullying and managing conflicts. Then the students traveled to the WSIU studios in Carbondale to learn how to edit their videos, learn about other techniques like claymation, and had the opportunity to ask WSIU employees questions about their jobs, their education, and the path they took to become successful in their career. April said “it was an amazing experience” for the students to engage with professionals, get hands-on experience with digital media, and gain some valuable job skills
As an SIU alum, April says she’s thrilled to see not only WSIU and the Mass Communications and Media Arts Department but the whole university engaging more with the community. “It’s amazing to see that happening.” She credits WSIU with bringing more momentum to the university’s community engagement, and she looks forward to continuing to partner with WSIU for more learning opportunities for her students in the future.