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Gianforte talks internships, work experience at Glacier High School

by KATE HESTON
Daily Inter Lake | February 7, 2024 12:00 AM

Gov. Greg Gianforte talked career and technical education with Glacier High School students and faculty Tuesday, highlighting Kalispell Public Schools for its work in promoting out-of-classroom learning opportunities for students.

Gianforte applauded the work district officials have done regarding the state Advanced Opportunities Grant, which lets schools financially support students participating in internships alongside classes. 

“It’s really about bringing education closer to the workforce,” Gianforte said. 

The 2023 legislative session saw a handful of bills regarding education pass, including House Bill 257, sponsored by Rep. Courtenay Sprunger, a Kalispell Republican. Gianforte signed the legislation, which boosts the money available to students looking to explore career fields through hands-on internships and work experiences, into law last year.

Schools everywhere should be doing this, said Assistant Superintendent Peter Fusaro. It brings more joy, more opportunities, and more voice and choice to students, he said. 

“Isn’t that what we want to do for these kids?” Fusaro asked.

Glacier High School has 44 kids in internships this semester, according to Mike Kelly, the district’s work-based learning coordinator.

One of those students is Seanna Dube, a senior at Glacier who is participating in work opportunities through the school. Dube is the school’s barista for staff members. Each morning, she leads a team of students from the special education program in running the coffee business. 

The opportunity has been “incredible,” Dube said, as she learns more about customer service and special education. Dube brewed coffee for Gianforte and his wife Tuesday. 

While there are opportunities through the school, according to Kelly, a lot of the internships students work through are off campus. Kelly reported reaching out to more than 100 companies to gauge their interest in taking on an intern. Almost all answered affirmatively, he said.  

Kelsea Bemis is a Glacier High student who holds an internship at Code Girls United. The most critical parts of her internship, she said, have been learning the business side of nonprofits and participating in the workforce. 

The work, Bemis said, has helped clarify what she wants to pursue in the future. 

“At the end of the day, they’re enriching and enhancing the workforce in the valley,” Kelly said. 

Last April, Gianforte visited Flathead High School to hear from school staff, administrators and students regarding that school’s career and technical education efforts. Companies interested in hosting internships can contact Mike Kelly, Glacier High School or Flathead High School to get connected. Students interested in participating are encouraged to reach out to Kelly or the school as well to learn more. 

Reporter Kate Heston can be reached at kheston@dailyinterlake.com or 758-4459.