In just two years — years marked by COVID complexities — Eastern Mennonite High School’s internship program for juniors and seniors has grown to include more than a dozen organizations willing to host EMHS students to explore their interests and contribute their skills.
Internships take place during the school day, over weekends, or during the summer depending on the student’s schedule and the internship placement supervisor. Participants receive course credit in lieu of payment from the intern sponsor. Placements typically include approximately 60-140 hours of student engagement over a period of 9-18 weeks.
“The program gives upper level high school students a chance to explore interests, gain confidence, and learn about career paths,” says Justin King, high school principal. “In at least one case, the experience helped a student decide not to pursue a path they had thought might be a good fit earlier. Self discovery is an important part of emotional health, and this program provides that.”
Placements within the school itself have given students the opportunity to explore interests in information technology, marketing and communications, fund raising, and elementary education.
In the broader community, placement opportunities include financial institutions, with architect firms, physical therapy practices, several locations within James Madison University, a mechanical engineering firm, and an aviation operation.
Caroline Young ’22 is in her second placement at James Madison University. Her first was a sports marketing internship and her second placement is with strength and conditioning for men’s and women’s basketball at the university’s new Atlantic Union Bank Center.
“My experience has connected me with my future plans… I am extremely passionate about exercise science,” she says, noting that in her role, she watches athletes to make sure they are doing exercises correctly, builds relationships with them, and cleans equipment. “Before this internship I was hesitate about college and had no idea what I wanted to do. Now I am so excited for college, and know exactly what I want to do!”
Her advice to other students? “Reach out to people! It may be scary and weird asking someone to help you but it goes a long way.” Her first placement, for example, came out of a contact with her father’s “old friend,” and her second placement came through a former assistant volleyball coach.
Jennifer Young, internship coordinator, is excited about how far the program has come in two years. “This program is excellent for seniors who might have accumulated the credits they need to graduate and are looking for some ‘real world’ experience,” says Young, who is also a PE teacher and middle school teaching team coordinator. “We are really happy to partner with local businesses in this way.”
“My hope is that the experience is worthwhile not only for the student, but also for the host organization,” she says.