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Resilience and Maturity: One Graduate Navigates Life with Skills Learned

How one North Dakota high school learner's experience in an eye-opening internship developed her skills, shaped her post-secondary plans and helped her navigate uncertainty

Stories from the Field
August 25, 2020

By: Jillian Kuhlmann

During a research internship with the pharmacy department at North Dakota State University, senior Kayla Teigen learned that sometimes the most valuable thing you can learn on the job is that everyone is still learning.

“In this field were research is happening and breakthroughs are happening, grad students are learning as they go,” Teigen explained. “It was eye-opening. They don’t know if their experiments will work or not. They figure out what doesn’t work, they fix things, and sometimes they don’t get to the point where can do their research.”

Teigen graduated from West Fargo Public Schools this past spring, and one of her graduation requirements was to include in her senior portfolio an exploration of the skills she’s mastered as part of the district’s Portrait of a Graduate – skills that include reflection, critical thinking, collaboration and communication, among others. These skills are blended into the learning that takes place not only in the classroom, but also during activities like Teigen’s internship and a presentation she and her peers did on CPR for a fifth-grade classroom.

“When I was given the opportunity to do this presentation, I was really excited,” said Teigen, who explained that her grandfather’s life was saved by CPR with no adverse effects. From communicating with parents and teachers at the elementary level about what to expect to deciding how they would explore the content with the fifth graders, it was an empowering experience for Teigen and her peers. “We had to break the information down in a way that these 10-year-olds would understand, but not so simplified that they missed important information.”

For Teigen’s parents, having her engage with how and what she’s learned through reflecting on her experiences in her portfolio was a critical part of college readiness. From learning to define for herself what it means to be collaborative to navigating parking, schedules and office hours with her professors at the college level, Teigen has had a glimpse of what her life could be like after graduation.

“Kayla’s bright, she studies a lot and she tests well. But going into an uncertain world, it’s not about the textbook. There’s no definitive right answer,” said Scott, Teigen’s father. “Through her internship, she’s been able to better understand her interests and what’s strong enough to drive her future aspirations. It’s solidified what her likes and dislikes are and what’s a good fit for her personality. That was one of the most important lessons for Kayla.”

While Teigen initially planned to major in neuroscience at the University of Minnesota, had already taken her placement exams and was ready to make the move, her hopes were disrupted by COVID-19 and she adjusted them. She’s been accepted at the University of North Dakota and will pursue a degree in Medical Laboratory Sciences.

For her mother Kim, her daughter’s experience this past spring and this summer has helped her to know herself and what she wants better than ever.

“Kayla has definitely shown resiliency and maturity during this time of uncertainty. She has not only learned how to navigate one college system, but two,” said Kim. “Her eyes are open to what’s out there, and she wants to see as much as she can.”

North Dakota is priming learners for success, celebrating two years of pioneering personalized learning. “We know what proficiency looks like now, and we’re doing a better job of ensuring kids get what they need.”


Jillian Kuhlmann
Senior Manager of Communications

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