As the school year came to a close, Rye High students and teachers may have noticed something odd about the senior class: about 50 seniors were missing from it.
By Natalie Amstutz
As the school year came to a close, Rye High students and teachers may have noticed something odd about the senior class: about 50 seniors were missing from it. No, these kids weren’t cutting class – in fact, quite the opposite: they were spending their days at internships to prepare for life after graduation. For the last three weeks of high school, a quarter of the graduating class chose to participate in the Senior Internship Program, working everywhere from local businesses to larger corporations in New York City.
The program was initiated eight years ago, when a planning committee in the School District proposed that including internships as a part of the high school curriculum would teach students vital skills for work and college. A Participation in Government/Internship course was developed, which allowed seniors to intern for an hour every day during second semester. This year, the program was modified to accommodate the growing number who wanted to participate. These students, of which I was one, finished their high school career three weeks before their classmates, and instead of attending classes, worked 15 to 20 hours a week at an internship of their choice.
English teacher Suzanne Short coordinated the internships with help from Principal Patty Taylor and Guidance Counselor Jennifer Magner. Both student interest and the growing demand for college graduates with work experience fueled the popularity of internships, and Short plans to expand the program. In 2014, she expects that 100 to 120 seniors will intern, and the number of participating students will increase each year, eventually including the entire senior class.
Students can pick placements that range from working in offices and hospitals to aquariums and bakeries. Interested in a career in medicine, Emma Jennings got first-hand experience by shadowing an orthopedic surgeon at Columbia University Medical Center. She explains, “I was able to go into the operating room and see knee and hip replacements, and a lot of other surgeries. I was even fortunate enough to watch brain surgery one day.”
For the more business-oriented, placements are available at local institutions, such as the Rye Historical Society and the Rye Arts Center, as well as at larger corporations in Manhattan. Cristina Buenahora interned at Knoll, a top modern design furniture company. There, she has “sat in on meetings and prepared binders and packages for clients.” Buenahora said she enjoyed getting to “work at an international company and gain experience in an office environment.”
One of the reasons internships are helpful to incoming college freshmen is that they give them a taste of a career or field they’re interested in. Emily Fung, an intern at RichArt Color Company, says that for those unsure of what they want to do after college, an internship is “a perfect opportunity to try out new things and get a feel for them.” Heather Schindler concurs. She interned at a Public Relations firm in the city to “learn about the PR industry and see if I liked it.”
Even those who end up not loving their placement have something to gain. According to Ms. Short, most seniors enjoy the experience, even if they realize this is not the career for them.
In today’s competitive job market, internships are a valuable, if not crucial, addition to any college graduate’s resume. Schindler notes that because of the program, she will have “already had some experience in public relations, and will have an edge” when applying for jobs. Ms. Short agrees, and feels the program also allows students to see how what they have learned at Rye High can “translate to the working world.”
If the chance to try something new and gain real-world experience isn’t enough to sell the program, seniors may want to consider the alternative – sitting in stuffy classrooms counting down the days until graduation. The RHS Internship Program is, according to Emma Jennings, “a chance to experience something really different than just every day school.” I couldn’t agree more.
Any business or organization interested in participating as a site sponsor for a 2014 intern, can contact Suzanne Short at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The author interned at The Rye Record this spring.