We recently caught up with Vivian Le, a 2016 graduate of Waukee High School and alumna of the Waukee APEX program. Vivian worked to brand the Aspiring Professional Experience (APEX) name while in the program in high school and has since gone on to even more great experiences at the University of Iowa. She recently collaborated with the New York Times and Marie Claire magazine. Read more about her opportunities in her recent interview.
What APEX course(s) did you take? Designing Communication Solutions, Spring 2015 (1st year of the program) and Developing Web-Based Technologies, Fall 2015
Explain the path that you took after high school?
I graduated from Waukee in 2016 and accepted a scholarship to attend the University of Iowa. I entered college thinking I would graduate with a degree in marketing and journalism, but after taking some management and art classes, I decided to declare an arts management degree instead. I was very unhappy in the business school despite being directly admitted into the college, but had already taken more than half the course load for my marketing degree. I met with my advisor and she told me about the interdepartmental studies program in which students could mold their major into specific studies they were interested in. At the same time, I decided to declare an art major as well with an emphasis in graphic design and photography.
Outside of my classes, I am the creative director of Fools Magazine and graphic designer at SCOPE Productions. My extracurriculars have been the main source of my learning and growing in college. Without Fools or SCOPE, I would have never been able to further develop the professional skills that APEX has taught me. In addition, I have had internships at Mainframe Studios as their communication intern, the Englert Theatre’s Strengthen Grow Evolve capital campaign as their development intern, EGR International in NYC as a marketing consultant.
My interests are all over the place, but that’s because I love to learn. APEX really helped foster my curiosity and professionalism.
Do you think that the technical skills that you learned in your APEX course(s) helped you be successful beyond high school? If so, how?
I absolutely believe that my technical skills I learned in APEX helped me to be successful after high school. A lot of students, like myself, don’t realize how special the APEX program is until after they leave. Entering college, I could tell that I was way ahead of my peers in my classes. For example, in DCS, we worked with Adobe Creative applications frequently and having just the basic knowledge of how those programs worked allowed me to spend more time learning advanced ways to operate them while my classmates were learning beginning skills.
Do you think that the soft skills, aka professional skills, learned in APEX helped you be successful beyond high school? If so, how?
APEX taught me professional skills that helped me secure internships after my first and second years of college, while my peers who graduated from other high schools were not even planning to look for internship opportunities until after their third year. Simple presentation, planning, and communication skills I was taught while in APEX have allowed me to pursue big projects while in the middle of my college career. Some of these things include launching a crowdfunding campaign for Fools Magazine with a comprehensive marketing plan, launching a student government campaign that won all of our ticketed senators and executives seats for the 2019/2020 school year, being invited to attend an advance journalism workshop twice that sent me to New York and Washington DC to meet and network with professionals. I didn’t realize how privileged I was to have such great instructors at Waukee and in the APEX program until I came to college and saw that a lot of other college students are just now learning how to write cover letters and build resumes as seniors in college. APEX equips students to be better and to explore every facet of their interests.
Are there other things about APEX that assisted you as you progressed beyond high school? Connections made, networking skills, confidence levels, etc?
Without APEX, my confidence would be non-existent. I moved to Waukee Schools when I was twelve and was a very nervous and quiet kid. I moved from Des Moines Schools where I had grown up my entire life. I was not prepared for how different Waukee was. Often times I was the only person of color in my classes. My family was also immigrants so our culture at home was very different than most of my peers. I felt like I stuck out like a sore thumb oftentimes and wanted to be completely invisible. Originally, entering high school, I thought I would graduate and go to pharmacy school for no other reason other than it would be a stable job. Finally, I stumbled upon HyperStream and connected with Michelle Hill and a group of friends who encouraged me to join Waukee APEX and the experience boosted my confidence tenfold. In addition, I found interest in plenty of other things that I never would have discovered if not for APEX.
Anything else you would like to add? Advice for future APEX associates?
Anyone who has the opportunity to participate in the APEX program should take advantage of it. While you obtain plenty of personal freedoms in college, the reality is that you do not get the type of experiential learning in college that APEX offers. APEX is so special in a million different ways. I cannot stress enough how crucial it was to my successes these last four years and how I’ve seen so many of my friends from high school bloom into professionals because of their involvement in APEX. Do everything you possibly can while you are still at Waukee because you have unlimited resources and a safety net. I have Michelle Hill and Scott Palmer to thank for all of my successes!