Victoria Helmer, Anjali Skilton, Joey Dasilva and Bella Burckhardt

Big Picture Seniors Anjali Skilton, Bella Burckhardt, Victoria Helmer and Joey Dasilva took the SXSW EDU conference in Austin, Texas by storm by presenting their Learning Through Interests internship project H.E.ART (High-schoolers Expressing ART) at The Big Picture Learning Student Entrepreneurship Showcase. Anjali, Bella, Victoria and Joey presented their emerging business alongside students from three other Big Picture Learning schools on the national stage. Selected from a national network of 65 schools, these student leaders direct their own learning as they work their way through school. Anjali, Bella, Victoria and Joey pitched their enterprise to a live panel of successful entrepreneurs, who challenged them to answer tough questions about their businesses.

When asked how it feels to be recognized by the Big Picture Learning network and be presenting their work at SXSW, the team had this to say, “It feels really rewarding to be one of the few groups selected out of the 65 National Big Picture Schools. We’re ecstatic to share our project on the SXSW EDU stage and spread our mission about supporting arts in education.”

Victoria reflected on the opportunity to present at SXSW, “After our project idea was not selected for Foundry 10 this fall we were all disappointed and discouraged, but Big Picture teachers encouraged us to move forward with the project independently. Big Picture has been very flexible in allowing us to pursue an internship idea we were all very passionate about. At a traditional high school we never would have had this opportunity.”

Bella added, “In addition to encouraging our team to pursue H.E.ART, Big Picture teachers also convinced our team to apply for the opportunity to speak at SXSW. Originally, we didn’t want to apply because we were worried that only one of us would be able to represent our team at the event. However, our teachers knew that this was an amazing opportunity that our group couldn’t pass up. They pushed us to step out of our comfort zone and step up to a challenge that we otherwise wouldn’t have. We wouldn’t be where we are now without them.”

A main component of education at a Big Picture School is the LTI (Learning through Interests) internship program. In internships with an expert mentor in a field of the student’s interest, students complete an authentic project that benefits both the student and the mentor’s worksite. Their projects are a key part of deepening student learning and academic growth. From 9th-12th grades, internships provide students with multiple opportunities to explore fields of interest, interact professionally with adults in a variety of areas, and complete real-world projects that develop their academic skills.

Joey recounted highlights of his LTI journey, “At my most worthwhile internship in Junior year, I was a social media intern for a neurodevelopmental clinic. Through that experience, I developed a keen interest in the internet and its proficiency in modern day business. All this prior learning has lead me to where I am today.”

Bella also recalled the internship experiences leading to this week’s SXSW presentation, “My freshman year I worked to showcase local Pacific Northwest art on social media with the Bellevue Arts Museum. Then, my sophomore and junior years I had the opportunity to work with both a start-up company and a non-profit. HEART Gallery has truly combined all of these experiences and the skills I have gained from them into one culminating project: a start-up art gallery that gives back to the community. Each member of our team brings unique skills that they gathered from their past internships.”

Victoria concluded, “During my freshman year I interned in event planning and donor cultivation for the Bellevue Schools Foundation. All the proceeds from H.E.ART gallery will be going directly to the Bellevue Schools Foundation to benefit grants for arts supplies, so it’s truly like my time at Bellevue Big Picture has come full circle.”

About H.E.ART