Every fall, Rye Neck High School seniors see a light at the end of the tunnel illuminated by the Senior Internship Program.
By Janice Llanes Fabry
Every fall, Rye Neck High School seniors see a light at the end of the tunnel illuminated by the Senior Internship Program. Turning 20 this year, SIP provides a glimpse into their futures and what the workplace might look like.
“The program is part of the fabric and culture of Rye Neck,” says SIP coordinator Karen Parisi. “Almost 100 percent of the seniors participate. They see it as enjoyable, as well as invaluable. These kids learn the process and hopefully take it with them to future employment.”
The program’s primary goal is to ease the transition from high school to college and a career. Students learn life lessons about responsibility, accountability, and maturity. In addition, the exposure to the real world compels them to ramp up their interpersonal, organizational, and time management skills.
In early October, Parisi begins taking them through the process of obtaining an internship that they start in April or immediately after their final AP exams. They begin by updating resumes, writing cover letters, and practicing interviewing skills that they’ll put to use in January when they start meeting with employers.
“Our interns are extremely fortunate to have wonderful mentors, who give up countless hours to help encourage and ensure our students have a positive internship experience,” remarked Parisi. “They give the students real life assignments.”
Each student is supplied with a directory of employers who have some connection to Rye Neck or are open to hiring students. In the last two decades, the list of employers has grown dramatically. They have diversified to cover a myriad of fields in the arts, business, beauty, computer technology, conservation, contracting, education, health, marketing, media, and medicine, making it possible to fulfill any student’s request. Today, the jobs extend throughout Westchester County, in New York City, Greenwich, and as far as Arizona, where a student worked in water conservation.
As Parisi said, “The internships provide meaningful opportunities that allow students to explore an area and career path they would not have been exposed to in a traditional classroom setting.”
The seniors’ fourth-quarter grades in Social Studies and English are based on an internship assessment. During their experience, students are required to submit journal entries twice a week, hand in weekly mentor evaluation forms, and complete an on–site interview.
“I have the privilege of visiting students at their internship sites, and it always amazes me how much they have grown in such a short time,” noted SIP’s coordinator. “One of the most wonderful things to see is how they rise to the occasion.”
Once the internships wind down, students update their resumes and write a formal, handwritten business thank-you letter. They also make a 15-minute PowerPoint presentation to their peers.
Over half of the students stay on with their employers for summer employment and/or beyond. On the flip side, some students discover their choices were not what they were expecting and welcome the opportunity to go in another direction. Either way, it’s a win-win.
“They all come back with fascinating stories about the experiences they’ve had,” said Parisi, who proudly points to an Internship Board that hangs in the school’s main corridor.
“This board celebrates the accomplishments of the previous graduating class, and it showcases the available placements which may help current seniors narrow down their selection,” she pointed out. “It is also a way to recognize the many businesses at which our students have interned as contributors to the next generation of leaders in our community.”