The RGK Center hosted its first high school intern this past school year from the Practicum in Business Management course at Austin High School, taught by Center portfolio alum Nick Lebo.
An Austin native, Harrison Shunk is a class of 2021 graduate at Austin High School and participated in the inaugural cohort of the Practicum in Business Management course, a senior-level experiential learning opportunity at Austin High School. The course is taught by Austin High School teacher and coach Nick Lebo and was made up of 15 students. Lebo earned his Master's in Education in Sports Management at UT Austin in 2011 and participated in the RGK Center Nonprofit Studies portfolio program while a graduate student.
“One of the things AISD and Austin High School are really trying to provide are practical, work-based experiences where kids can take the skills they’re learning in the classroom and apply it to the real world,” said Lebo. “It’s a great chance for students to learn whether they like it or if it’s not the career path for them.”
As part of Austin High School’s Business and Industry endorsement program, Shunk had taken businesses classes each year of high school and was intrigued by the opportunity to gain work experience through the new Practicum in Business Management course. He was particularly interested in learning more about the marketing side of organizations.
“Marketing is one of the things about business that encompasses all aspect of not only business but other social skills,” said Shunk. "It has the biggest outlook and opportunity than any of the other topics I could have been working on.”
Shunk reached out to RGK Center director Dr. David Springer to inquire about internship positions available at the Center. Though the RGK Center had never previously hosted high school interns, Dr. Springer was excited about the prospect.
“I have known Harrison since he was about 5 years old, when I was his youth soccer coach. He and my son played on the same team,” explained Dr. Springer. “I knew that he was good on the pitch, and a very safe bet to have as the RGK Center’s first high school intern."
While at the RGK Center, Shunk worked alongside Center staff to help plan, market, and facilitate events throughout the 2020-2021 school year. One project Harrison assisted with was a co-sponsored event with the RGK Center and the Social Innovation Initiative at the McCombs School of Business. Over the course of several months, Shunk attended planning meetings, supported speaker communication, created social media content, and managed RGK Center social media related to the upcoming event, titled “Investing in Communities in times of Crisis.”
“The biggest takeaway was learning how to market to and reach a large group of people, setting up speakers, and bringing everyone together,” said Shunk. “That’s a skill I never had to use before.”
The event included a panel of nonprofit and community leaders and was led by MPAff/MBA dual-degree student Katrina Parkey. Panelists explored how community organizations, foundations, and businesses can support communities in need with innovative programming and finance models quicker than traditional grants and government programs.
“I learned how everybody in the [nonprofit] field is a team, happy to come together and work with the RGK Center, even though they have their own organization,” said Shunk. “There’s a sense of community across all the different nonprofit leaders.”
Harrison Shunk presents his takeaways from his internship at the RGK Center.
Shunk presented his projects and takeaways from his internship in front of his peers and other internship supervisors at the end of the school year. He plans on attending the University of Madison-Wisconsin in the fall pursuing an undergraduate degree in Business.
“Harrison exceeded our hopes and expectations and paved a path for future interns,” said Dr. Springer following Harrison’s internship. “His legacy is now woven into the fabric of the RGK Center.”
Demand for the Practicum in Business Management course at Austin High School has skyrocketed, with the school capping the fall 2021 courses at 40 students total. Lebo will be teaching two sections of the course in the fall, in addition to his Entrepreneurship class.
“I think we’re going to see more education shift toward allowing students to have real work experience,” Lebo said. “You can only learn so much through classroom lectures and discussions, so at some point out education system is going to realize the more we can get students in the workplace gaining soft and technical skills, the more prepared they’ll be for a career.”
The RGK Center Nonprofit Studies portfolio program is open to any graduate student at The University of Texas at Austin. Learn more here.