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RHS Seniors Dive Into the Real World

IMG 1002Rye High School seniors are starting to wind down their academics and prepare for the next big chapter in their lives. But before they set off, they will test the waters outside in what for many will be their first real-world employment experiences, as they take part in the school’s Senior Internship Program.

 

By Annette McLoughlin

 

IMG 1002Rye High School seniors are starting to wind down their academics and prepare for the next big chapter in their lives. But before they set off, they will test the waters outside in what for many will be their first real-world employment experiences, as they take part in the school’s Senior Internship Program.

 

The program was created in 2004, when a strategic planning committee recommended giving seniors some real-world experience, with practical applications and a deeper focus on future careers. Joel Edminster, an English teacher who helps oversee the program, emphasizes the need for practical experience. “Student participation in the ‘real world’ that exists outside the limiting walls of the educational institution is important to their growth. Getting these kids up and out of here. Most of them are more than ready for this exposure.”

 

Initially, the program was tested as part of a Participation in Government class, whereby students explored outside placement opportunities related to course content. Building on the success of the pilot program, in 2013, a curriculum and guiding structure was created to accommodate more students and 58 participated that year. In 2014, 120 students took part. Last year was the first year of full participation.

 

IMG 0971Internships begin in May, after senior classes end, and run four weeks. Students commit 20 hours per week for a total of 80 hours. Additionally, there are weekly journal assignments and face-to-face dialogues between students and mentors.

 

The mentors are senior class teachers whose roles are crucial. Assistant Principal Suzanne Short explained, “Since their senior classes no longer meet, they work with a caseload of students, discussing student responses and experiences and scaffolding them as needed along the way. We have 25 unbelievable faculty members who serve in the role of Faculty Mentor.”

 

Science teacher Jennifer Giaquinto is one. Notwithstanding the fact that the internships are a relatively short experience, she believes they help students develop confidence and can make a dramatic difference in their lives. “My mentees opened up about fears they had related to graduating high school, moving away from home, deciding what to do with their lives, among many other things. They shared things that they were learning about themselves through the experience. They asked for advice. They had deep realizations about themselves that many people don’t have until well into adulthood.” 

 

The types of internships vary widely, based on interest. Mr. Edminster noted that students have worked for chocolatiers and architects, and as marine biologists and museum curators. They’ve assisted politicians and hedge fund managers. They’ve worked with car mechanics and surgeons. Interns have served in country club pro shops and elementary school classrooms.”

 

And though many of the positions are secured through the school, students often find their own.

 

At the conclusion of the four-week program, students are required to deliver a presentation about their experience to their mentor and a small group of their peers. The groups are kept intentionally small in order to encourage involvement from the group.

 

Ms. Short looks forward to a time – in the near future – when the program is no longer initially daunting to the students. As the program matures and becomes integrated into the curriculum, students become less fearful of the idea of getting out of their comfort zones. “Over the last few years, it has been really enjoyable to watch the students starting to really look forward to the beginning of the Internship, seeking out their own placements.”

 

The Rye community has been very supportive of the program and the administration is grateful. Ms. Short is quick to point this out. “Community support has been and will be integral to the success of the program. Last year, over 100 students had internships or program experiences in the City of Rye.”

 

When asked about advising someone who is considering taking on an intern this spring, Mr. Edminster said: “I would tell them that they might be surprised to find how smart, capable, and industrious our seniors are; I would advise potential employers to take time to get to know the kids — to enjoy the experience.”

 


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