Area high school students say they see a future in Dayton, but want more opportunities

28 high school students from 10 schools presented projects on AI, technology, the future of work and why Dayton is the place to be.

Local students recently tackled topics surrounding the use of artificial intelligence, attracting young people to Dayton, technology and mental health and getting students connected to careers during a 32-hour internship with the Montgomery County Educational Service Center called Inside Dayton Fellows.

A group of 28 Montgomery County high school students from 10 different high schools presented their findings after the internship, which was meant to develop student leaders in the various high schools and provide students a platform for schools and companies.

“The internship for me has taught me to speak to more people,” said Madelyn Berk, a Stebbins High School student. “I’m a very quiet person, so meeting new people and understanding that the world isn’t that scary is pretty nice.”

Overall, the high school students asked for more opportunities, including being taught how to use AI and limit cell phone use, more access to mental health benefits and how to find their careers.

One group presented what factors were important to young people when considering where to live. A Forbes article recently named Dayton one of the best places for a young person to live, and the students said the factors named in the article – skilled job openings, low housing and living costs, and plenty of restaurants and things to do – mattered to them.

A handful of the students said the factors are making them consider staying when they graduate from high school.

A second group of students presented on the intersection of mental health and technology use, noting that many teenagers overuse technology which can lead to poor mental health outcomes.

The teenagers in this group asked schools and parents to work with them in finding healthy boundaries for technology use.

Grace Weigand, a Vandalia-Butler High School student, said her district is banning cell phone use completely next school year. But she said she’d prefer to see her school teach boundaries rather than ban cell phones.

“I think in schools, we should have classes teaching us the risks of social media and risks of technology on our mental health and also teaching us how to use those tools responsibly and not overusing them,” Weigand said.

A third group talked about the use of AI in schools and in the workplace. The students noted more schools are letting them use AI and they expect to use it in the workforce. The students asked for guidelines and assistance in learning the new tool.

Finally, a fourth group of students gave a presentation on how companies can attract them. The students said internships, job shadow opportunities and career fairs were the best ways to reach them to discuss new jobs.

Berk said Stebbins’s career tech program gave her access to many different careers she never would have thought of otherwise.

“I hope that more schools, such as everyone in here gets that opportunity,” she said.

In addition to their presentations, the Inside Dayton fellows had multiple visits from professionals. Nivea Jackson, a Wayne High School student, said she appreciated the interviews tips and being told how to write a resume.

Izabel Martinek, a Fairmont student, said she appreciated the opportunity to learn more about AI. The students had to use generative AI technology in their presentations.

“Something that I never really considered before is how I can use it to my leverage,” she said.

Bryan Stewart, director of workforce development for the Montgomery County Educational Service Center, said he hopes to foster leadership in younger students. Many opportunities are only open to seniors, but high schools need leaders before then, he said.

“We’re hoping to plant a seed of leadership,” he said. “Empower them before they’re seniors.”

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