Yesterday was a big day for 141 ninth-graders at Houston ISD’s Waltrip High School. Five weeks ago, Waltrip’s inaugural 3DE by Junior Achievement case challenge kicked off. Volunteers from CenterPoint Energy presented students with an open-ended question: What exciting and inventive strategies should CenterPoint employ to attract new skilled workers? Students worked in teams of three-five to devise a concise and compelling presentation to share with volunteer judges from CenterPoint. The culminating event included 17 students in the four finalist teams making their pitches to the judges. Their impressive work made for some tough deliberations.
This probably doesn’t sound like your high school experience, telling high-ups at a major company what they should do when you haven’t even completed one semester of high school! But this is 3DE’s pioneering case-methodology model. 3DE launched in Houston last year at Stephen F. Austin High School, and Waltrip joined the roster this year. Working closely with volunteers from some of the region’s top companies, Waltrip’s 3DE students will embark on five more cases challenges this school year. Each challenge aligns with a core competency: collaboration, analytical thinking, cultural agility, communication, creativity, and self-direction—all of which today’s students need to demonstrate to enter the workforce after graduation. 3DE is starting only its second year in Houston, but pilot programs in other states have yielded promising results: a 34% increase in graduation and 42% fewer cases of chronic absenteeism in 3DE students. Three more HISD campuses are slated to join the 3DE team next year, increasing the number of students who will benefit from this innovative, hands-on approach.
Students at Waltrip didn’t shy away from the challenge set before them. They came prepared with a wide range of impressive ideas for attracting and retaining high-quality CenterPoint employees. Several teams considered employees’ quality of life, suggesting generous PTO, signing bonuses, and free childcare on site. One team advocated for CenterPoint to visit colleges’ business and engineering clubs to recruit and offer talented new employees tuition reimbursement. They suggested CenterPoint advertise its college recruitment program and its benefits to high school students to inspire them and give them concrete goals to work towards.
In the end, there could be only one winner. The judges decided that the winning team’s focus on building a healthy and fun work environment for employees while increasing outreach and impact in the local community set them apart from the rest. The team’s suggestion to sponsor local events and causes spoke to the judges because it aligns with CenterPoint’s commitment to the Greater Houston community. Case in point: CenterPoint has provided Junior Achievement of Southeast Texas with funding and volunteers for over three decades! Darin Carroll, CenterPoint’s Vice President of Operations Support and Junior Achievement board member, praised students for their “confidence and poise.” “You all should be very proud of the work you’ve done,” he told them, “and I certainly am.”
Congratulations to the students at Waltrip for completing your first 3DE case challenge! Thank you to CenterPoint Energy and all the amazing volunteers who showed up for the students. You can be a part of this game-changing education initiative, too! If your company is interested in building a case challenge or volunteering for 3DE in the 2022-23 school year, please contact Jim McCaskill, Director of Community Partnerships, at 713-337-4780.