High School Apprenticeships: Dakota Felder Explores Real-world Web Design

High School Apprenticeships: Dakota Felder Explores Real-world Web Design

During his senior year at eStem High School and in the Noble Impact program, Dakota Felder spent his high school apprenticeship in web design and development at design and development agency, Few. He will tell you that his experience went beyond his wildest dreams, and it has also led him to become a freelance web designer while exploring a “gap year” before deciding which college to attend. Dakota has built credibility through his hard work, and the bond he formed with his apprenticeship host has proven to be the launching pad into a profession he loves.

“Working here at Few has definitely been a life-changer for me… it’s been the highlight of my high school career.”
Dakota Felder, Noble Impact Apprentice


Over the last year, the terminology of “computer science” or “coding” has been a hot topic for Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson, and rightfully so. Our world is changing at drastic paces, and the need for a computer-literate workforce is increasing faster than the valuations of some of the world’s biggest startups. Reading “Race Against the Machine” (2011) or listening to the a16z podcast will give you ample insight to understand, in the words of Marc Andreessen, why it may be so that “Software is Eating the World” (also in 2011).

On day one of the apprenticeship boot camp, Dakota made it known that his interest was in the technology field, and more specifically, web design and development. The “student-industry fit” with Few seemed perfect… and it turned out to be nothing less than the life-changer that Dakota references. Having the hard skills of web design and development were critical to Dakota’s apprenticeship, and the relationships he created and built will lead to long-term success.

“We did not take it easy on Dakota. We wanted Dakota to feel the pressure that everybody feels in this office.
David Hudson, CEO, Few

Dakota put in many hours of hard work that definitely exceeded the 2-hour-per-day commitment for an apprenticeship. There were many days he would participate in lunch meetings and after-school meetings, and he even volunteered for the Made by Few annual conference that took place over 3-days in Little Rock, including a coveted weekend, where he could have been doing anything else. These are just some of the commitments that Dakota made to his apprenticeship host, and they proved to be the most important relationship building opportunities.

“We provide real-world experience and real world experience is far more valuable than theory.”
David Hudson, CEO, Few

Understanding what makes a successful high school apprenticeship is also in direct relation to the hosts themselves. The team at Few is dedicated to its community and that shines through in so many different avenues, including the company’s willingness to participate in the inaugural Noble 301 Apprenticeship program. In addition, they set the bar high for Dakota and treated him like any other member of their team. This philosophy is paramount to the success of an apprenticeship, as we also believe that high expectations lead to high performance and accountability.

“The skills that I’ve been able to develop through the Noble Apprenticeship, those are things that’ll carry on the rest of my life.”
Dakota Felder, Noble Impact Apprentice

It’s great that we’re focused on computer science and coding, but it must go deeper. We must have programs in place that connect the classroom to community. We must treat our high school students like the young adults they are while holding them to high expectations. Content is the information grab, but credibility is the relationship grab… we have to connect both.

His apprenticeship has ended, but Dakota is just beginning the entrepreneurial journey. Imagine if all high school seniors were able to take part in high school apprenticeships that connected them more deeply to their interests. Imagine if these students became the next line of entrepreneurs in Arkansas. Why are we waiting?

“I started with nothing, right? Now I’m doing paid work for people.”
Dakota Felder, Noble Impact Apprentice

High School Apprenticeships: Hannah Young Discovers Soft Skills

High School Apprenticeships: Hannah Young Discovers Soft Skills

Senior Hannah Young sought out the Museum of Discovery for her high school apprenticeship because of her love for animals. Throughout the process, Hannah went from being quiet and reserved to becoming an effective teacher in her department while performing multiple presentations. In this apprenticeship, Hannah displayed the importance of going after her specific interest in animals and how that led to her development of both hard skills and soft skills. However, practicing soft skills proved to be the most critical measurement of her personal and professional growth.

“I really don’t think I’m the same person I was at the beginning of this year…I’ve learned a lot about dealing with people.”
Hannah Young, Noble Impact Apprentice

At every level of Noble Impact curriculum, soft skills are introduced and practiced on a daily basis. There are many different meanings of soft skills and the importance of developing them for the 21st-century knowledge economy. Whether it’s written about by top academics in “The Innovator’s DNA” or referenced by the Department of Labor with “Soft Skills to Pay the Bills,” this specific development is critical to success in the information age.

In addition to attending our two-week professionalism bootcamp at the launch of the school year, each senior that signs up for the Noble 301 Apprenticeship must engage in three distinct steps to provide the foundation for a successful apprenticeship:

  1. Identify Interest
  2. Research Industry
  3. Create Connection

The importance of going through these steps begins the journey of building individual credibility, and although many people call it the knowledge economy and the information age, we also like to see it through this credibility approach.

Credibility Model


Noble Impact Credibility Model

Hannah’s apprenticeship serves as a great case study that other students and teachers may look to when understanding the process. She had the courage to go after her interest, she conducted research on options, and then built her competencies by connecting herself to an industry that she truly cared about.

“I think it’s great that she’s had the opportunity to get hands-on super early so that she knows whether or not this is what she wants to do with her life.”
Nichole Ashley; Animal Room Manager, Museum of Discovery

Practicing soft skills is hard. Access and opportunities to the “practice field” is where Noble Impact curriculum intersects with the community, which becomes the ultimate playing field for soft skill development.

Digital Portfolios: How One High School Filmmaker Showcases Who She Is

Digital Portfolios: How One High School Filmmaker Showcases Who She Is

High school junior Bethanie Gourley is one of the hundreds of Noble Impact scholars who have created a digital portfolio in our program. As a filmmaker, she uses her portfolio to showcase her work and build her professional network and budding career in videography. Let me emphasize: She is in high school, and she is actively pursuing a career in film, with her digital portfolio as evidence of her artistic acumen. We believe this is what high school should be about for everyone: Students pursuing their passions within an educational experience and support system that’s both relevant and purposeful. That’s what we provide at Noble Impact, and for many of our scholars, the digital portfolio guides our unique learning process.

Bethanie says her portfolio is a representation of her personal story and what she has accomplished — she’s even used her digital portfolio to connect with her favorite filmmaker, New York-based videographer Casey Neistat. In short, it represents WHO she is, WHAT she’s done, and WHY.

Who You Are Is Your Biggest Asset

The Golden Circle Simon Sinek

Millions of people have viewed management consultant Simon Sinek’s TED Talk about how great leaders and companies inspire action. He calls it the “Golden Circle” and defines it as the world’s simplest idea — his focus is on “WHY” people and companies do what they do.

“People don’t buy what you do, they buy WHY you do it.”
Simon Sinek, Speaker and Consultant

It’s understandable “why” people are attracted to his TED Talk and “why” over 27 million people have viewed it. I myself have shown it in many different scenarios. I’ve been thinking, though: Is it really the progression of why, how, what? It made me think about who I am and how that connects to why I do what I do. BOOM. WHO!

“I am Bethanie Gourley, and I’m a filmmaker.”
Bethanie Gourley, 11th-Grade Noble Scholar

In my first year of facilitating our Noble Impact classroom curriculum, I focused on “WHO” students were and challenged them to get beneath the surface… a lot harder than I thought. Three years later, I’m still convinced that “WHO” you are is greater than “WHY” you do what you do. It’s your unique value proposition. Thus, we have a revised quote and model for Simon Sinek:

“People don’t buy what you do… they buy WHO you are.”
Chad Williamson, Noble Impact

WHO > WHY

Ask the brilliant people at venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz how they invest. More specifically, ask Tristan Walker how he created Walker and Company Brands — we use his case study in our curriculum to emphasize the power of using authentic and personal stories.

If we really want to be honest about the world’s simplest idea, it’s about WHO you are. It’s about creating a life that connects to individual narrative. That’s where “meaning” manifests itself. The Walker and Company story doesn’t exist without Tristan’s story about not having a father to teach him how to shave. It’s not a fun story, no, but it’s personal, memorable, and impactful. Yes, the Walker and Company website gives you the language about “WHY”, i.e. purpose. But once you click on the video, it goes deeper and provides the “WHO”, which is the signature story.

We begin our curriculum by challenging students to identify their stories by building their personal portfolios, and Bethanie has provided a great example. We believe this approach will lead to uncovering the entrepreneur within.

High School Apprenticeships: Jordan Young’s Pursuit of Photography

High School Apprenticeships: Jordan Young’s Pursuit of Photography

High School senior Jordan Young entered Noble Impact’s apprenticeship program with a passion for photography and exited the experience with a set of professional photography skills that will serve him as he continues to pursue his career in the field. While apprenticing with photographer John David Pittman, he learned about relevant techniques, provided his services to fellow classmates, assisted on professional shoots, and also scored his first paid client.

“I believe this has opened up a whole new realm of thought.”
Jordan Young, Noble Impact Apprentice

The Noble Impact apprenticeship program launched at the beginning of the 2015-2016 school year with 24 seniors at eStem High School in Little Rock, Arkansas. In partnership with local businesses and organizations, the mission was to connect the classroom to the community at the highest level possible. Therefore, 24 students were treated like adults and started the program with a two-week bootcamp that focused on professional communication and personal awareness regarding growth within their selected field.

Throughout the year, a tremendous amount was learned about proper means of assessment, communication with host companies, and what it means to have a successful apprenticeship. Also learned was the stark reality of what success doesn’t look. Truth be told, all apprenticeships were not successful, which has uncovered a deeper understanding of what it takes to ensure the highest likelihood of success for both the student and apprenticeship host.

To communicate Noble Impact’s vision of what an apprenticeship should look like, we developed a video series that consists of three videos that capture three unique stories. The first video portrays the story of photography apprentice Jordan Young and his apprenticeship experience with professional photographer, John David Pittman.

“It’s really been fun to watch the growth of this relationship go from an initial conversation to a kid that was kind of interested in photography to him learning how I do things…and then getting to do some stuff on his own and actually get paid for a job.”
John David Pittman, Noble Impact Apprenticeship Host

The importance of apprenticeships is amplified through the U.S. Department Of Labor‘s support of such programs. We believe apprenticeships are an experience that all high school students should have at their disposal. Students shouldn’t have to wait to pursue what interests them.

At Noble Impact, our apprenticeship program provides access and opportunity for all students that want to “open a whole new realm of thought” that Jordan, for one, has experienced… It’s time that every student has an option to be an apprentice while still in school.

A Noble Future: Retrocat Media Speaks About Attaining Success

A Noble Future: Retrocat Media Speaks About Attaining Success

Retrocat Media LogoThe following guest post was penned by Creative Director Joe Lusby of Retrocat Media, a Little Rock-based media production company. Along with fellow co-founder Lukas Deem, Lusby was a guest speaker with the Noble 101 courses at eStem High School, speaking about how to reach success.

As always, visiting the students of Noble Impact leaves us excited for the future and motivated to do more of what matters. These students are bright, talented, and of course, surrounded with top tier educators and mentors (#ChadRules). We had the great pleasure of speaking with a few students from the Noble program about what we think is key to building a successful future.

Something we have always believed in is building yourself to be the best you can be, and success will follow. Success is a routine. Success is habit. Success is not an act, but a ritual. We talked to the Noble students about their dream goals and what they can do today, and every day, to achieve those goals.

Joe Lusby Maps Out Goal Strategy
The Retrocat Media team prepared for our guest speaking day with a goal-mapping session.

Our steps to success are as follows: Know your goals. Take one step today. REPEAT.

Goals will change and so will the steps. If you are constantly and consciously aware of your goals and you are constantly and consciously taking steps to achieve those goals, you WILL succeed. #moneybackguarantee

The students of Noble Impact dream big. We spoke with dozens of students about whom and what they dreamed of becoming. We encouraged the students to imagine who they could become and to think without limits. We also encouraged them to let their passions guide their future.

As expected from the students of Noble, we were astounded by how many students not only knew exactly what they wanted, but already knew what they had to do in order to make it a reality. (A task that is difficult even as an “adult”.)

Joe Lusby Breakdances at Noble Impact
I did a bit of breakdancing for the Noble Impact scholars.

From a young age many of us are pushed into career paths the seek status or wealth and put passion to the wayside. So often, passions seem to be hobbies and free time, while “work” dominates the day to day. We believe that work and passion should be one in the same.

We spent our time discussing with these young minds about becoming the person you want to become and not the job you want to have. We believe following your dreams is about creating the lifestyle you want to live, and then making active and conscious steps to create that lifestyle.

Joe Lusby Speaks at Noble Impact
Spending time with Noble Impact students was as inspiring for me as I hope it was for them.

In the end, getting to spend time with the students of Noble leaves us inspired. Inspired to pursue our dreams as passionately as we can. Inspired to seek help and ask questions. Inspired to surround ourselves with like minded others reaching for the impossible.

As always, we leave Noble wondering who really made the impact.

The Noble Impact Apprenticeship: Challenging Students To Be Creators

The Noble Impact Apprenticeship: Challenging Students To Be Creators

When we launched our inaugural apprenticeship program at the beginning of this school year, we started with the belief that high school seniors could add value to companies. Not knowing exactly what that value would be, we thought to create an apprenticeship that put students in the drivers seat. Meaning, we would coach up the professionalism and communication process but they had to create and cultivate connections in order to land an actual apprenticeship.

As you might imagine, the process of creating and cultivating relationships was not the easiest assignment. We emphatically took the position of coaches and not rescuers, which we do in all classes (see The Empowerment Dynamic for reference). However, we knew that some might require more guidance than others in regards to networking and connecting with the community.

Noble Impact Apprenticeship Partners

A look at some of Noble Impact’s inaugural apprenticeship partners.
The first person to sign on as a participating company was John David Pittman. His willingness became the catalyst to show students that apprenticeship opportunities were real. As the students began to reach out to different companies, we knew there would be challenges but also knew there would be success stories, and both would provide great insight about apprenticeships.

Dakota Felder Few ApprenticeshipOne of our success stories has been the apprenticeship between senior, Dakota Felder and Little Rock design and development firm, Few. Starting the relationship was not the easiest for Dakota and he actually blogged about the uneasiness he felt in his initial meeting. Since then, he has been in the trenches, experiencing everything from client relations to company culture to helping run the Made by Few design conference. His openness to learning and being coachable has given him opportunities to create products for clients.

In addition, he has challenged himself to step outside his comfort zone, which is difficult for everyone, especially high school students. His professional work can be summed up by a quote from a local CEO of a digital media company after seeing Dakota’s latest product, a brochure about Noble Impact (see embedded below):

“Tell that kid he’s HIRED. Nice work. That looks like it was produced by a full-service ad agency.”

Not knowing what to expect in the beginning of Noble 301 has not deterred us from responding with enthusiasm to student potential. We believe that apprenticeships have the ability to benefit the entire community as long as students are willing to commit to building their credibility, which is what we’re starting to see through tangible outcomes. The students are ready, it’s just up to us to provide them with access and opportunity.

If you’re interested in participating in the apprenticeship program as a for-profit company or non-profit organization, please feel free to contact chad@nobleimpact.org.

For an example of the type of work our apprentices produce, see Dakota Felder’s latest product, a Noble Impact brochure, embedded below.

Stories: The Power Of Sharing And Listening

Stories: The Power Of Sharing And Listening

Stories are everywhere, and everyone has one. When was the last time that you read someone a story, told a story, or shared your story? All the time, right? Stories make life fun. They make life interesting.

Before Fall Break, I had the opportunity to listen to some of our 5th graders in Noble Impact tell their stories to their classmates. They shared their values, their passions, and a story – something important to them – and they are even blogging about it! After seeing their blogs, I had no excuse not to get mine up and running. Thanks for that motivation, 5th graders!

Jessi Forster Reads a Story
Jessi Forster reads a story at eStem Public Charter School.
This is something I love about education today, especially here at eStem. We are equipping these 10 year olds with something that is intangible – it goes beyond a lesson, test, or paper. It’s the ability to have a story and share it with others.

But that’s not the only value in sharing stories – what about those students and teachers listening? They are making personal connections with these students’ stories, they are getting to know each other. Today, it just may be more important to be a listener. Can you think of the people you know who are good listeners…the ones who truly hear what you are saying? I know you can probably think of several names of those who don’t! When I know someone hears me, I know they care about me and what I have to say. This is what I want our children to learn, not only how to tell their story, but also how to listen to others.

​I wish I had learned that when I was 10.

This post originally appeared on Jessi Forster’s blog, Mrs. Jess Forster, where she writes about her work as an educator and K-8 director.