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Thursday, January 27, 2022

Durango student internship coordinator rises to state education position – The Durango Herald

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Business education communication leadership is set to change hands

Janae Hunderman is transitioning from a work-based learning coordinator role at Business Education Connection to an education consultant position with the state. (Courtesy of Janae Hunderman)

Amid broader discussions about what the future of work will look like, a program put together at Durango High Schools is shaping the conversation about the future of education.

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In 2020, Janae Hunderman started Business Education Connection, a program designed to help students discover their interests and develop their skills through internships and work-based learning opportunities. She had already been working with students on an internship at Animas High School for about seven years and had been with the independent school for a decade.

The program is jointly funded by AHS and Durango School District 9-R and launched in July 2020. Hunderman, Work-Based Learning Coordinator at BEC, described the program as an individual offering.

But now she is advancing her career to the state level. I started a new job as an educational consultant for the Colorado Workforce Development Board and the Colorado Department of Education.

However, the show must go on. Mary Kim, a former training coordinator at Fort Lewis College, steps in for the role left by Hunderman.

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“It’s the people’s turn,” Hundermann said. “It’s the ability to develop relationships, to be a liaison, to be the kind of person who sees the student’s personality and interests.”

Big Picture High School student Ben Wilson trained at Performance Automotive Repair in Durango during the 2020-21 school year. He was connected to the auto shop for an internship through Business Education Connection, a joint training and work-based education program through Animas High School and Durango School District 9-R. (Courtesy of Business Education Connection)

Hundermann said BEC also needs a great visionary or thinker. She is excited that she laid the groundwork for Kehm to adopt the program and make it her own.

BEC has facilitated 150 to 200 internships for students within the community since its launch in 2020. Hundermann acknowledged that starting the program just as the COVID-19 pandemic occurred was an odd timing, but BEC is an innovative program and rewarding for seeing students in internship roles and learning they have skills to develop .

“What it really comes back on is helping students learn about their interests and helping them find ways to explore those interests and strengthen those interests, as a way of finding out what they want to do after high school,” she said.

Hunderman (and soon Kehm) spends much of her time at BEC in collaboration with teachers at Durango High School, Big Picture High School, and AHS. She also frequently visits new businesses and gauges community interest in internship programs for new students, which she will return to teachers and students.

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“The role of the business education liaison coordinator is the first joint position between the three schools,” Hundermann said. “…It’s really unique to have the charter and the region share something like that.”

She said her new job is remote and travel-based, so she’s not moving out of Durango and will be around town. She said she would still be able to support local schools because that’s the primary function of her new role anyway, just at the state level. She said the rising tide lifts all ships, and she hopes to bring her new experiences and knowledge back to her community.

cburney@durangoherald.com

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