Pie crusts, Polish pasta, seared salmon, ten-layered crepe cakes drizzled in buttercream– all...
If you were a passing bystander looking through the glass walls of the Nu Skin Pavilion Monday evening, you might assume the wall-to-wall stalls with screen displays and eye-catching posters were part of a Nu Skin business exhibition. And you would be virtually correct in your assumption–the presentations contain actual deliverables for real businesses with real stakes. The only difference between a normal showcase and this one would be the people showcasing their products and projects, all of which were Provo CAPS students.
For the past term, high school students in the Provo CAPS program made authentic digital designs, software, marketing plans, and engineering projects for local businesses. The goal of the Provo Center for Advanced Professional Studies (CAPS) program, as stated on the Provo CAPS website, is for “students [to solve] real problems, with real tools used by real professionals, being mentored by real employers, leading to real contributions in the professional arena.”
Inside the Pavilion, Provo CAPS students bordered the walls, staffing their presentation panels. Each display reported their company’s problem, the drafting and experimentation process, and highlighted end products, as well as what they learned during their time with the company. Showcases spanned a large gamut of projects. From marketing campaigns to promote local businesses and drives, to software development to improve business workflows, Provo CAPS students were troubleshooting problems that leave most working professionals scratching their heads.
There was notable progress from the first to the last iteration of each project. Students shared their first drafts at cracking the businesses’ identified problems, and you can almost hear each student sigh when recalling their first proposed solutions. All presentations, however, highlighted the pivots and switchbacks required to land on their finished product, and each drove to make necessary adjustments and chart a course to a fruitful outcome. Here were students with measured speeches, practiced eye contact and concise presentations. Event attendees pitched questions with some apprehension, hoping they wouldn’t throw the student out of their grooves, only to find that their projects had legs and dimension. There was an impression that these students forayed into new and unfamiliar territories, planted flags in hard soil, and made the space their own.
It was clear that creating real products subsequently created real experiences. The showcase showed off new presentational skills, critical-thinking abilities, and self-obtained professional habits–all of which are vital. When looking from outside of the Provo CAPS project, one might assume these skills underpin the showcase. The greater lesson taught and shown through the showcase, however, was more foundational and more significant– giving young people a chance to dream big, fall down, and get back up is how learning happens.
Special thanks and recognition goes out to Provo CAPS contributing partners including Provo City, Intermountain Health Care, FatCats, Keeping with the Faith, Sensum, Xactware, United Way, Hall Labs, Bricks & Minifigs, Bending the Light, Nu Skin, Families Up and Whitaker Construction. You can find more information about the Provo CAPS here.