High school co-op placement — my window on the world of work

Zhen Park, co-op student at Leaside High.
Zhen at work at the Ontario Science Centre.

I recently completed a Leaside High co-op course.

For high school seniors, questions about your future linger in every corner. Where are you going to go for post-secondary? What are you going to study? Where do you see yourself in five years? These questions can be hard to answer for students who don’t know what they are interested in or aren’t sure if their idea of a career is a good choice.

At Leaside High School, co-op is a two-credit course offered for students in Grade 11 or 12. It does take a bit of course rearranging to fit in co-op as it takes two course spaces. In my case, I had to drop other courses I was planning to take to make room for co-op, however it was totally worth it.

The process to receive your placement is beneficial in itself. Once you have an idea of what you would like to do, Ms. Sandra dos Reis, the co-op teacher, works hard to find you a good placement. The process is done in the same way as a job application where you complete a résumé and cover letter as well as prepare for an interview. The process is not always smooth, but everyone eventually gets a placement.

Zhen, left, with York University student volunteer Celina Cong at the Science Centre Innovators Ball.
Zhen, left, with York University student volunteer Celina Cong at the Science Centre Innovators Ball.

I recently completed the co-op course with a placement in the Development Department at the Ontario Science Centre. It was an amazing experience where I was able to learn the different aspects of fundraising development and work with an excellent team. I was lucky to have my placement during the RBC Innovators Ball, a big fundraising gala the Centre hosts every year. With my interest in events and fundraising, being able to be a part of such a huge event was a dream come true. I got to see the work that goes on before, during and after the event and was given opportunities to contribute in a meaningful way and help with the success of the evening.

Co-op was a great experience and was usually the best part of my day. It shone a light on the many opportunities for professional development and skills such as how to use different software programs, merge files, be a team player and improve my communication and design skills. I also had the opportunity to interview various department members to talk about their career paths and what their jobs entail. This not only gave me insight into different paths available for this career but also provided perspective on the importance and impact of fundraising.

In the end I gained valuable experience and insight from my co-op placement and also met great people along the way.

Written by Zhen Park, a student at Leaside High.