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.

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.

On My High School Photography Apprenticeship: Booking My First Client

On My High School Photography Apprenticeship: Booking My First Client

First professional headshot booking in the records at 18 years old, whoop!

My Noble 301 apprenticeship experience, alongside photographer John David Pittman (aka JDP), has been getting more and more life-changing.

For the last few months I’ve been able to walk over to JDP’s studio after school in hopes of not only discovering the life of a photographer, but also how to find something you’re passionate about and turn that into a career. I’ve been essentially shadowing him when he’s in his creative realm, and it’s been pivotal in my journey of possibly pursuing my dream of becoming a photographer after college. Quite frankly, my apprenticeship with JDP is one of the coolest, most dynamic things going on in my life in regards to me finding myself as a person. I picture myself having a life of free will and the ability to create as I please and being able to work with JDP has added an avenue for me to be able to do just that. I’ve come to truly look forward to getting a text from him right before lunch time, asking me if I can come to the studio and learn a new technique or try out some cool lighting concept he’s been working on. Those end up being the best lunches.

“Quite frankly, my apprenticeship with JDP is one of the coolest, most dynamic things going on in my life in regards to me finding myself as a person.”

Since my apprenticeship began about 5 months ago, I’ve been mentally and physically gaining the experience it takes in order to become a full time photographer. The bigger skills from lighting and how to set up a professional shoot, all the way down to what computer hard drives work the best. Over the course of these last months, I’ve been on site at JDP’s photoshoots, taken the headshots of numerous Noble 201 students, witnessed the behind the scenes of planning a shoot, and studied numerous photographers in which my mentor, JDP, has been inspired by. I’ve learned just about as much from shadowing him as my senior year of high school thus far — interesting dynamic, right? If only I could work in this realm everyday… I couldn’t imagine how much service I could be providing, but alas school isn’t going to do itself.

Jordan Young Photography Apprenticeship
A look at key points in my apprenticeship training, which got me prepared for my first professional session.

Early in my apprenticeship, I was offered the opportunity to book my first professional headshot session with creative sensation, Dan Ndombe, also known as Dan Newbie on YouTube, where he makes music videos using household goods, like wine glasses, pots, pans, bottles, and rubber bands.

This journey of gearing up for taking Mr. Dan Ndombe’s headshot has finally come to an end, and I couldn’t be more proud of the experience. Dan, a simple pleasure to work with, was the ideal subject to test my newly developed skills, while also providing him with a service and product — a headshot — he can use in the upcoming future for his website, speaking engagement, social channels, and so forth.

Our headshot session took place in late February at JDP’s studio, during one of those lunch periods I look forward to. JDP and I portrayed Dan in the light of being approachable yet professional, much like he is in day-to-day life. Prior to the shoot, we had a consultation meeting, in which he expressed his trust in us with his personal image and simply wanted us to do as we felt to portray him in the best light possible. To have that amount of trust put into me was huge for my first shoot, and I really appreciated Dan for it.

When it came time for the actual shoot to begin, Dan walked in and I could tell by the look on his face he was excited to have his headshot taken; he kept that same energy the entire shoot. From the first shot, he bought into and thrived in the atmosphere we made sure to set, cracking jokes and making conversation the duration of the shoot. I kept in mind the little things JDP taught me and things I read in the book he recommended me, “The Headshot” by his good friend, Mr. Peter Hurley. Throughout the shoot, I was thinking about everything from posture, positioning, and angles to expression and major desirables — they all played a major role, as did me understanding what needs to be changed from shot to shot. The one-stop-shop on how to effectively capture someone’s essence, “The Headshot” is a must read for any up-and-coming photographer who wants to learn about a world focused on facial perception.

Dan Ndombe Photoshoot JDP and Jordan Young
A look at some of the photos that came out of my first professional headshot shoot, with Dan Ndombe.

After about 30 shots of JDP and me alternating to provide perspective of what to look for during the process, we felt like we captured the Dan we had been catching glimpses of from shot to shot. He was all there: The gentle smile, confident eyes, razor sharp clothes, and kind demeanor. It was a rush of euphoria to be able to step back and look at the picture on the tethered laptop next to me and say, “Yup, there he is. That’s it.”

Even surpassing that, was the feeling I felt when I swiveled the laptop to let Dan see it and watched his face crack a big grin and say, “Man, you guys are good.” It was music to my ears, and I simply couldn’t stop grinning.

It was beyond rewarding to have the opportunity to do something I thoroughly love doing during a given lunch period, but it’s icing on the cake to be paid for providing a service due to your artistic ability. I could work in a studio everyday at lunch and wouldn’t miss a single burger because of it.

The New High School Essentials: LinkedIn, a Resumé, and a Digital Portfolio

The New High School Essentials: LinkedIn, a Resumé, and a Digital Portfolio

The Huffington Post LogoThis post originally appeared in The Huffington Post, where Noble Impact VP of Product Erica Swallow is a guest contributor, focused on the intersection of education and technology.

In a world where more than a third of college admissions officers visit applicants’ social media pages and 93% of job recruiters review candidates’ social profiles before making hiring decisions, a digital presence is now an essential for hopeful college admits, entry-level apprentices, and future employees alike.

A decade ago, high school students were sent home with supply lists that included a backpack, binders, notebooks, and pens. Today, it is becoming increasingly important for a high schooler to come prepared with his or her digital records of achievement, including a LinkedIn profile, a resumé, and a digital portfolio. These tools increase a student’s odds of success landing college admittance, job offers, and scholarships, interviewees told me.

Building Credibility

Anna Albers High School LinkedIn Profile

Recent Alma High School graduate Anna Albers has had a LinkedIn profile for years.

Anna Albers, an incoming freshman at the University of Arkansas has had a resumé since she was a freshman at Alma High School. For her, it’s a tool for building credibility. She says what began as a homework assignment, grew into a useful resource for her career progression. It started as a place to list her extensive volunteering experience with organizations such as the Muscular Dystrophy Association and Ronald McDonald House, but now also showcases her academic achievements and work experiences. Her resumé, too, is highlighted on her LinkedIn profile, which she also launched as part of her course work at Alma, through a career-focused, co-curricular student club called DECA, which aims to “prepare emerging leaders and entrepreneurs in marketing, finance, hospitality and management in high schools and colleges around the globe.”

“My resumé has been incredibly useful,” Albers says. “It helped me in the process of being elected and serving as a state officer for DECA. It also helped me get a job [as a life guard manager at a local state park], receive college scholarships, and push along my college applications.” Albers says the hiring manager at Lake Fort Smith State Park, where she works, was surprised she even had a resumé. “It helped me gain the managerial position. Most high school and college students don’t have a resumé,” she says. “When I spoke with other applicants applying for one of the scholarships I ended up receiving, too, no one else had submitted a resumé and many didn’t even know what a resumé is. The resumé, though, created the backbone for the interview and provided talking points for my interviewer.”

Albers assessment of her interview seems accurate, according to Chad Brown, president of the Harvard Club of Arkansas and director of research at hedge fund Circumference Group. Brown and fellow Harvard alumni conduct interviews with Harvard College applicants from Arkansas. He says he receives minimal information about an applicant leading up to an interview, including the interviewee’s name, high school, and contact information. He typically requests a resumé during his first call with an applicant and later searches for the candidate on Facebook and Google to “see if there’s anything of note,” he says.

“An applicant may be nervous or not know what Harvard is interested in knowing about them,” Brown says. “Some students don’t realize that what they’re doing is different from their peers. When I find those details online, and they’re not mentioned in the interview, I try to bring them up.” Brown adds that students seem to be getting better at hiding their social presences. Which begs the question, why aren’t more students aiming to showcase their digital goods?

It may be because most colleges don’t proactively ask for online resources yet. “For undergraduate admissions, we don’t utilized LinkedIn or online portfolios to make admissions decisions,” says Tyler Bittle, admissions counselor at University of Central Arkansas, noting that it’s not part of the college’s admissions rubric. “We look at transcripts and ACT scores. Supplemental materials become important when students apply to specific, more competitive academic programs, such as our Honors College,” he adds. Bittle says even then, online resources aren’t directly part of the application process, but they can come in handy for recommendation writers, who may use such resources to better articulate a student’s accomplishments.”

Secondary educators, though, are stepping up to meet growing demand for online media. New York-based high school counselor Steve Brown forecasts, “In the next 10 years, you’ll probably see more college admissions counselors accepting digital portfolios as a part of the application process to feel out what kind of a student body they want to bring together. Smaller private schools will likely start that trend, because a lot of them have already moved away from SAT and ACT score submissions. In the end, colleges want a well-rounded student body. Digital portfolios tell a student’s story, beyond his or her traditional academic records.

As recent high school graduate Albers puts it, “These digital resources are most valuable for high school students. A resumé is your foundation. It’s what gets you started thinking about your passion and what you’re doing in life. It’s so helpful to have those conversations early on.”

Show, Don’t Tell


High school senior Jadon Barnes has a film reel that rivals other much more established professionals in his field.

One of the key tenants of storytelling is to show, rather than tell. Digital portfolios enable students to do just that by sharing their stories in engaging, visual ways.

At education non-profit Noble Impact, where I serve as vice president of product, we expose students to 21st-Century tools that empower them to build their credibility through storytelling. Among other activities, each student is challenged to build his or her online presence to showcase his or her story, values, passions, and related projects.

Senior Jadon Barnes, for example, showcases his work via his professional-grade website and film reel, which showcases his love for and talent in videography. While still in high school, Barnes has already been a showcased filmmaker at the Little Rock Film Festival. It’s easy to see why, when viewing his online footprint. Barnes’ Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram profiles are also in line with his professional image — something most adults can’t say themselves!

Professional videographer Lukas Deem, owner of Retrocat Media, commented on Barnes’ portfolio, “His digital game is on point. Jadon’s site showcases that he collaborates with other people and organizes his own projects. It shows that he’s doing something outside of school hours — which means that he’s a driven individual.”

High school junior Bethanie Gourley, also a filmmaker, tells her story through a frequently updated YouTube channel and a digital portfolio. In fact, Gourley wrote a blog post last month about how her digital portfolio enabled her to connect with her favorite filmmaker, director and producer Casey Neistat, last year. “Through Twitter, I had tweeted him many times in the past,” she writes. “But this time, he actually read what I had to say through my digital portfolio. The fact that Casey complimented my work showed me I had potential, even though I was just a sophomore in high school.”

The possibilities are endless as to how high school students can use their online presences to create and seize opportunities.

The Make Or Break

Bethanie Gourley Digital Portfolio

Bethanie Gourley used her digital portfolio to connect with her favorite filmmaker, Casey Neistat, during her sophomore year in high school.

An informative social media and digital presence is increasingly the make or break for college admits and job applicants. It’s certainly a must-have in some circles.

“We know applicants through their online presence weeks before we even talk to them,” says Retrocat Media Creative Director Joe Lusby, who is currently on the search for a high school apprentice. He adds, “Everybody has social profiles these days, so we look for anything that stands out. Furthermore, if you don’t have an online presence, we’re not going to find you. Our business operates entirely online. That’s how we network.”

High school counselor Steve Brown says he focuses his students’ efforts on building digital tools that enable them to be better prepared for life decisions after high school. Based in Lake Shore Central School District in upstate New York, Brown has been helping students build digital portfolios for three years now. Using a tool called CollegeOnTrack, his students are guided through tutorials on building a resumé, creating a digital portfolio, choosing a career path, and researching college options.

“From what I’ve found,” says Brown, “Digital portfolios are a chance to highlight and tell a story about a student’s growth and the things they do outside of school. I had a student who was very much into racing cars on the weekends. I had no idea, until he uploaded videos to his portfolio. He’s now a student of engineering and diesel mechanics. I had another student who was a figure skater — I learned through her portfolio that she volunteers for the Skating Association for the Blind and Handicapped, an organization that teaches blind children and adults how to skate on ice. As a counselor, it’s helpful to see what the students do, and it’s important for students to showcase these stories on college and job applications.”

Across the country in Michigan at similarly named Lake Shore High School, students — such as Sean Neal, Jessica Old, and Caitlin Beirne — use online site creator Weebly to create in-depth academic and professional track records of their work, including uploads of resumés, reference letters, academic awards, blog posts, and even work samples. For example, in her spare time, Beirne is a cake decorator and baker, and her work samples look delicious enough to prove it!

These resources are just the type of content that recruiters and admissions officers cite as make-or-break assets. A video goes a long way in showing what a student has done and can do. Show me a picture of a delicious cake, and I’m ready to hire you for my next party!

The Bottom Line

A digital presence is no longer a nice-to-have for high school students. Competition is high, and schools across the nation — and world — are preparing their scholars for a 21st Century workforce.

To students and the parents and educators who support them, I challenge: Is your digital presence ready for life after high school? These tools are the new high school essentials for those hoping to jump into a college program or the workforce. If you haven’t considered building a resumé, LinkedIn profile, and/or digital portfolio to showcase your experiences, what’s holding you back?

Header image courtesy of Noble Impact