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Life during COVID-19 has brought some significant challenges and changes for everyone. Most every part of our lives has been affected, including the way that school and business are conducted. When a program like Waukee APEX that works closely with the business community is thrown a challenge like the pandemic, the innovators in all of us work toward the next evolution in learning.

During the summer months, the Waukee APEX team of instructors and staff began developing solutions to predicted challenges. Close to every aspect of APEX is about building relationships and working collaboratively.  From co-working at the WILC, carpooling with shuttles, and visiting clients’ offices had to be rethought.  Anticipating that host sites would not be available due to so many businesses operating remotely, teams worked to find ways to virtually close those gaps with primary partners and make connections with their employees via technology. Socially distancing and allowing for hybrid learning options at the WILC were implemented.  Co-working and project meetings with business partners were all migrated to online meetings.

Taking all of those challenges into consideration, through the first several weeks of the semester, teams are up and running in a safe and productive manner. The APEX program follows the same mitigation strategies set forth by the Waukee Community School District, so anytime anyone is at the WILC, a client meeting, or a business site they are wearing a face covering and following social distancing guidelines. Additionally, we are very fortunate to still have student associates in the Animal and Veterinary Sciences team traveling to the Blank Park Zoo twice a week to collaborate and work outside with zookeepers on research projects. Our Exercise and Sport Science associates are also allowed to participate in labs and small group classes at the Waukee YMCA. Host sites that are still working remotely as a business continue connecting with our teams virtually in a variety of ways. Instructors and student associates have become familiar with how to run discovery meetings through various meeting platforms.  Together we grow our knowledge of technology every day, if not every hour.

Client involvement remains a strong and vital part of our APEX program, and we are grateful to all partners who continue to offer their support, knowledge, time, and creativity to the professional growth of our APEX student associates. We have quickly discovered that most anything that happened in person can still happen virtually. So far this term, we have already planned and executed virtual tours of office facilities, facilitated online technical mentorships, held virtual professional panels, live broadcasted professional development sessions, hosted numerous virtual client meetings to discuss project work, and brought in guest speakers via video conferencing platforms. All in all, our APEX partners have remained supportive and involved.

In regards to our APEX student associates, our team of dedicated instructors makes it a priority to connect with ALL students, in-person and online. Instructors have intentionally grouped both in-person and online students so that they all can feel connected to their teams, even from a distance. Instructors are devoting more time to reaching out to online associates to ensure that they are feeling involved and that they are understanding the content. APEX instructors have shared that the challenges presented so far in the school year have provided opportunities to be innovative and to think outside of the box.

The Waukee APEX program may be operating a bit differently these days, but there is still so much growth and discovery happening daily. Recognizing that authentic professional experiences, career exploration opportunities, and personal and professional growth does happen in various locations, including remotely. The APEX team of dedicated instructors, staff, community partners, and student associates will continue to evolve and develop new ways to continue valuable opportunities while in a safe and productive environment.

Be sure to follow our APEX social media sites for updated information on project work.