This Student Can Help You Go Places!
W hat do you get when you combine a passion for trains, a love of digital age tools, and an inquiry- based education? If you’re Jeff Kessler, you get an
awesome internship with Amtrak and the chance to create
a couple of websites dedicated to helping people travel by
rail and other forms of public transportation.
Kessler, now 17, was already a longtime train buff when
he landed the opportunity of his dreams two years ago. His
school, the Science Leadership Academy (SLA) in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA, helped him arrange an internship
with Amtrak. And it wasn’t one of those internships where
you make copies and fetch takeout for important people.
Jeff visited every section of Amtrak’s busy engineering department and got to do real work in the field that he loves.
He helped design track layouts, tested the new centralized
electronic-train control system, worked with engineers on
high-speed rail, and dispatched trains on one of the busiest
days of the year for Amtrak—the day before Thanksgiving.
“The computers crashed, and it was a very chaotic
experience,” Jeff recalls.
But Jeff is no stranger to chaos. You might say that his
senior project—developing a travel-related website—
was born out of chaos.
Jeff came up with the idea of creating his first site, Edu
Concierge, after handling logistics at EduCon, the education conference his school hosts each year. SLA—an
inquiry-driven, project-based high school focused on
digital age learning—depends on its students to help with
the conference, which is devoted to fostering inquiry, collaboration, and innovation in schools.
At the 2009 conference, Jeff was assigned to help partici-
pants with tech issues, such as printing boarding passes.
He enjoyed it but realized he could do more. So the next
year, he printed timetables, told people how to get to the
airport, and answered questions about the conference.