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.

Innovate 2 Educate Spring 2015 [VIDEO]

Innovate 2 Educate Spring 2015 [VIDEO]

Innovate 2 Educate is a challenge-based framework that guides students through a process to research, design and pitch their ideas on how to improve education. Check out the video below for a look into the experience.

Video by our good friend, Retrocat Media.