Giving Back: My Virtual Lunch Break in San Antonio

David DennisPost written by David Dennis, Legal Counsel

I recently had one of the most energizing and inspiring lunch breaks I can remember. It had nothing to do with the cuisine or, say, a mid-day quadruple-shot espresso.

No, from my office in Billings, Montana, I met with and advised a group of budding entrepreneurs—high school students, actually—in San Antonio, Texas.

As we all remember or have witnessed with our own children, high school is a challenging and stressful time for kids. They experience incredible emotional and intellectual growth, all while trying to plan and prepare for the looming post-high school world.

Sadly, however, America suffers from a monumental disconnect between businesses and educational institutions. Seventeen-year-old kids are expected to make significant decisions regarding their future, yet, short of fast-food restaurants and retail clothing stores, most have little-to-no interaction or exposure to the working world to guide them in planning their future.

This is particularly the case in rural communities where connection to professions and trades are even more uncommon. Additionally, students from low-income homes may believe they have few options after high school because of their limited finances. This latter group lacks exposure not only to different occupations and professions but also to individual stories of success that might provide a roadmap to guide their own journey.

neprisFortunately, technology is now helping scale this gap by enabling virtual connections between students and professionals. One such platform, Nepris, allows industry professionals to connect with high school students easily and conveniently.

Nepris matches the skills of professionals to curriculum and classroom needs and connects students with professionals from across the country.

Teachers post descriptions of virtual volunteer “opportunities” on Nepris’ portal, providing the date, time, and most important, the project or topic of discussion—everything from methods used to prevent sepsis in health-care settings to designing dirt-resistant tennis shoe soles.

Industry professionals can browse teacher requests and volunteer for sessions directly through the Nepris portal. Nepris also allows professionals to suggest presentation topics–called “Industry Chats.”  Multiple classrooms from across the country may sign-up to participate.

industry-chatsI volunteered to work with students who were tasked with developing mock business plans. My role was to advise them regarding legal and regulatory considerations that their business plans would need to address.

Thus, rather than listen to me tell them what I do as a business attorney, the students actually experienced it first-hand.

The students were interested and engaged in our discussion because it was meaningful to their projects. And what better way to demonstrate what an attorney does than by sitting side-by-side (virtually) and working through legal questions together.

As a high-school student, I remember sitting through innumerable “career” days. I can’t remember ever being inspired or even interested for that matter. The Nepris format fosters real and meaningful interactions between professionals and students by providing a connection between what the students are learning in the classroom and the skills and experience of business professionals.

All in all, my lunch in San Antonio was exceptional. And though I can’t say I inspired any of the students to become a business lawyer, they certainly got a good look at what I do for a living. As for me, sharing what I do with interested and engaged high school students left me energized and optimistic.

If you’re interested in learning more about volunteering with Nepsis, visit their website.