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Life Skills Learned: NCHS Senior Internship Program
Life Skills Learned: NCHS Senior Internship Program
Story by Allison Beck, NCHS Senior Intern 2019
While most high school seniors spend their last weeks before graduation in classrooms, almost all of the entire class of 2019 at New Canaan High School is in the workforce, learning lessons they can use for the rest of their lives. Students have been placed at 150 unique internship sites all over Fairfield County to gain experience and knowledge before they venture off into the world.
Out of 315 students in the class of 2019, 298 are in the Senior Internship Program (SIP), which is 94% of the class. Out of those 298 seniors, 53 are doing self-designed internships, where students sets up the internship themselves. There are 30 other categories of internships, including business, marketing, and nonprofits. For the last four weeks, SIP aims to give students an opportunity to learn and use skills in these work environments.
Sevent-seven students are working in the New Canaan Public School. Senior interns Kayla Beck, Max Fonns, Tommy Saitta, and Michelle Siegel are working with Superintendent Dr. Luzzi to produce “goodbye videos” for the teachers retiring this year. But making and editing videos aren’t the only skills they will be taking with them after graduation. “I have learned so much about independence. We have a lot of freedom to be creative,” said Kayla. “Now I am going to be prepared for the future and know how to time manage myself”.
Not only are students getting the feel of a real work environment, they are also learning about things that they are passionate about. Senior Claire Ross is working with physical therapist Jonathan Mendola at Performance Physical Therapy in Darien to fulfill her interest in the physical therapy field. “I had ankle surgery at the end of the summer, and once I started PT here, I realized this is definitely something I am interested in. So I wanted to try this out to get more of a feel for this work,” she said. “I have already learned so much.”
Claire and her fellow senior interns at Performance Physical Therapy, Lauren Canet and J.W. Slattery practice their skills by helping patients with their exercises. “The best part is knowing I am helping someone,” Lauren said. “Helping people with their exersizes and getting them one step closer to full recovery is so rewarding for me.”
Although these students are not learning basic curriculum like Algebra or Civics, like they normally would in a classroom setting, they are still taking away lessons they will cherish for the rest of their lives.
Instead of working indoors like Claire, seniors Mia Berg and Emily Shizari spend their days outside in the Gospel Garden at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church. Here the girls, along with three other interns, grow fresh vegetables that go straight to the New Canaan Food Pantry.
This internship has allowed Mia and Emily to be creative and independent with their work. “I am working the left side of the brain, which I didn’t do as much at school.” Emily said. “We actually, believe it or not, have to problem-solve a lot. There isn’t always room to make plants six feet apart from each other, even though that's what the directions say”.
Mia, who had very little gardening experience walking in on her first day, has now obtained expertise that she will use in her daily life. “There is a lot more to keeping a garden and planting then people assume," she said. "It’s a great skill to have, and I am going to take the things I have learned here with me for the rest of my life”.
Senior Internship Coordinator Heather Bianco encourages every senior to get involved in the internship program. “You aren’t going to get this experience in school. Launching you guys into the workforce early in your life is out-of-the-box and sets you up for greatness,” she said.
For myself, I have spent the past three weeks interning at the NCPS Central Office with the Director of Communications Mike Horyczun. I have been able to see how much effort truly goes into making the New Canaan Public Schools run smoothly.
My job was to essentially report and write about what is going on in the district. I was able to use my strengths and have freedom to angle the stories I wrote in my own way. Journalism is something that interests me and, looking forward, I realize I am fortunate to have had this experience that I will take with me when I go off to college in the fall.
Top photo: Interns Kayla Beck (left) and Michelle Siegel (right) interview retiring South School principal Ms. Joanne Rocco.
Middle photo: Physical Therapy intern Claire Ross sets up the Cryotherapy machine at her office.
Third photo from top: Interns Mia Berg (right) and Emily Shizari (left) dig holes in the soil to make space for string beans to grow.
Bottom photo: NCHS intern Allison Beck, Class of 2019.
Front photo: (from left) Seniors Kayla Beck, Michelle Siegel, Tommy Saitta, and Max Fones are helping Superintendent Dr. Luzzi by producing and editing faculty retirement videos.