Using a VR headset to explore future careers, freshman Carlina Frazier takes advantage of an opportunity presented by VisionThree, organized by Principal Pat Cooney. "The primary purpose right now is to give kids this experience," said Cooney. "I'm seeing how students are reacting to the software to see if this would be something that would be good for them in the future." Photo by Connor Burress

Peering into a digital world, exploring possibilities from behind a headset and looking through the eyes of experts, a unique collaboration has given students a brand new perspective on their futures. 

PHS has partnered with VisionThree, a virtual reality company focused on helping high school students discover new career interests and options with a new level of immersion. Various classes met in the Media Center, where kiosks were stationed with VR headsets. Using a digital assistant called Carrington, employee-written social posts and real footage of careers, including this session's partner company Dallara, VisionThree helped these students explore potential careers like never before. 

“Instead of having to wander through a major in college and then go on a job site, this interaction  can replace that,” said VisionThree CEO Heather Jackson. “There’s video content, photo content and then information about pathways that you could take. Also, whether or not the job requires some degree, as well as what kind of a salary, so it's meant to be a really exploratory tool.” 

VisionThree intends to use virtual technology towards a greater impact for today’s students. While the company has already made an impact, its work in career exploration is still gathering steam from humble beginnings. VisionThree was founded 20 years ago in Indianapolis and is centered around applying virtual technology to businesses. However, its application for students and career decisions is very recent. 

“It started as a little tiny idea that we brought out last spring and just kind of asked a few people in the community, ‘What do you think about this idea?’” Jackson said. “Everybody loved it and said, 'We want to see it happen.' So we built the first pilot, which has since evolved into the second pilot.” 

A simple idea from the CEO became a powerful use of technology for students and they've partnered with many experts, companies and schools to make it happen. Through meetings with an organization called Innovate Within, geared toward bringing entrepreneurship and STEM education to students, Principal Pat Cooney was introduced to VisionThree's work. After a conference near the end of 2022 to discuss what a partnership with the company could do, a decision was made to bring VisionThree to PHS in mid-January for a trial run in the Media Center. 

Cooney said, "We partnered together to bring the roadshow here . Five classes of kids went  through this and we had community members or stakeholders from the town of Plainfield – from the school board, from Kohl's, from the Hendricks College Network and Duke Energy – that came in to see if the program is  something they might want to help support in Plainfield High School."

\tAs far as the actual experience, student participants explored a variety of careers through a brand new lens. It was met with much positivity; time can only tell how much further VisionThree’s work could go in school settings. 

"I liked the job options that there were and there's a variety of different things you could do; maybe not things you'd think of off the top of your head," said freshman participant Dejah Floyd. "What was interesting to me was that there were different types of careers that you could select from, so you get a variety and there's really no limit to what you could do. There's different streams of different careers. Everything's different."

VisionThree anticipates kiosks with headsets and virtual content in every high school in Indiana. Beyond that, they hope to spread nationally, yet state-wide integration is certainly a starting point. As far as Plainfield is concerned, the hope is for more regular sessions with VisionThree and  expansion of school facilities for career exploration. 

Cooney said, "The other primary purpose of the road show was to see how can we go about bringing something like this to Plainfield High School, so that we can even better enhance our college and career program with our college and career advisor and have maybe a career lab in Plainfield High School somewhere where students can do this quarterly, semesterly, yearly … to really have a good idea of what is it they might want to study." 

VisionThree's work in virtual career exploration has already been making an impact, and Plainfield is just the latest to see what they have to offer. Schools across the state are looking into the possibilities of this technology, as well as the applications and expanses in the world of career exploration for students of today and tomorrow. 

Jackson said, "The very short mission statement is, 'If you can see it you can be it,' so our goal is to be able to really show clear pathways, college pathways and community pathways that will help people understand what kind of job they might want to actually get involved with.”

Story by Annika Christiansen