Students at East Side High School’s Big Picture Academy Share Lessons From Real-World Internships


Big Picture Academy students presented final exhibitions on their internships for the 2015-2016 academic year to the Superintendent

East Side High School's Big Picture Academy students shared lessons from their real-world internships with Superintendent Cerf, peers, teachers, family and school community members (photo credit: Yasil Luna, 12th Grade student, ESBPA).
East Side High School’s Big Picture Academy students shared lessons from their real-world internships with Superintendent Cerf, peers, teachers, family and school community members (photo credit: Yasil Luna, 12th Grade student, ESBPA).

[Newark, NJ – May 20, 2016] – Newark Public Schools (NPS) Superintendent Christopher D. Cerf visited East Side Big Picture Academy (ESBPA), an academy within East Side High School, to observe ESBPA students make their final exhibition presentations to the East Side community. The exhibitions focused largely on the projects students have completed and the skills they have mastered in their internships throughout the year, as well as reflections on their learning and growth.

“It was inspiring to see how excited the East Side Big Picture Academy students are about their education,” said Superintendent Christopher D. Cerf of NPS. “These exhibitions represent all of the hard work that the young men and women at ESBPA have dedicated to their studies and illustrate how much they have grown over the last year. It is so important to encourage our young people to pursue their academic and career interests so they can apply everything they are learning in the classroom in real world scenarios.”

Approximately 100 students from grades 9 to 12 are enrolled in ESBPA, and each student is required to complete an internship over the course of the school year. Students work with their advisor to find an internship that lines up with their interests. This year, student internships ranged from working in Jenkinson’s aquarium (marine biology) and the Newark’s Municipal Prosecutor’s Office (criminal justice), to working for Summit Medical Group (medical) and Seton Hall’s Pirate Radio WSOU 89.5 FM (communications).

Monica Ocasio, currently an 11th grade student enrolled in ESBPA, has an internship with Jenkinson’s Aquarium in Point Pleasant, New Jersey. “My internship experience has been life changing. I’ve learned that I not only have a passion for marine animals, but I would like to study all animals in general,” Ocasio shared. “I also learned to be more mature, independent and professional. As for Big Picture Academy, I had a really rough start and was getting all the wrong attention. But I learned my teachers cared about me and they would not be going away. They saw the inner leader in me and pushed me to do positive things. Now I see that I can be a positive leader. If it wasn’t for Big Picture and the internship experience, I would not be who I am today.” Monica is one of 40 students from across the country selected to attend Big Picture Learning’s International Conference ‘Big Bang’ in Orlando this July. The conference will focus on student-centered learning.

ESBPA’s student-centered learning approach is made possible by relating students’ classroom learning with real-world experience at an internship associated with their area of academic or career interests. Students are evaluated in their mastery of content through multiple methods outside of traditional standardized testing assessments. Each student works closely with his or her advisor to develop personalized learning plans and rigorous interdisciplinary projects at the internship site.

“East Side High School is very proud of the continued success that the East Side Big Picture Academy has had over the past seven years,” said Dr. Mario Santos, Principal of East Side High School. “In order for our students to be college and career ready, it is vital that our young men and women are exposed to real world situations that they can continuously apply their learning to. The Big Picture model allows our students to meet professional industry standards and solidify their passion at an early age which will set them on a path for success.”

Exhibitions, which are presented both at the middle (midterm) and end of the year (final), are assessments through which students are expected to demonstrate the mastery of skills they have developed as a result of their year-long interdisciplinary projects. Additionally, students share reflections on their academic and personal growth, as well as their strengths and weaknesses with fellow peers, advisors, teachers, family and school community members.

“Today, the reality is that our education system requires much-needed innovations so that our children are equipped with the educational resources and experiences necessary for them to compete and be successful in our constantly shifting 21st century society,” said Dr. Sonn Sam, Chief Innovation Officer at East Side High School. “The Big Picture model has been a successful innovation to the status-quo in the U.S. education system and allows our students to take ownership in their work and be at the center of their learning on a daily basis.”

ESBPA is one of over 65 Big Picture Learning schools across the United States. Big Picture Learning, which was established in 1995, is an innovative program designed to ensure that students are at the center of their own learning. In 2001, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation supported the expansion of the Big Picture model nationwide and the school design has been lauded by President Barack Obama as a highly effective innovative school model.

About Big Picture Learning

For over 20 years, Big Picture Learning has worked to put students at the center of their own learning. Today, hundreds of BPL network schools in the United States and around the world work together and in their communities to reimagine and reshape education. Big Picture Learning designs innovative learning environments, researches and replicates new models for learning, and trains educators to serve as leaders in their schools and communities. At the core of Big Picture Learning’s mission is a commitment to equity for all students. Over two decades Big Picture network has served over 26,000 students in 20 U.S. states and another 5,000 students in 6 countries around the world.