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Students from the school where I teach are off this week to do internships. They are allowed to choose where they want to go, and we have students in several states (and a few out of the country). The students try to find a placement that relates to a career interest they have. We have students working in law offices, government agencies, research facilities, markets, lawn care businesses, veterinarian clinics, nonprofit organizations, and a host of other businesses. This program is one of the most rewarding and beneficial activities we do.
It isn’t easy running an internship program during the school year. Most of the frustrations occur before the internships begin. Students procrastinate in finding a place to intern, and then find it is nearly impossible to get in where they want to work. Students who want to work in hospitals or doctor’s offices often need a physical checkup, a tuberculosis test, and to attend an orientation before being allowed to work. This can take weeks to arrange, which means students need to plan ahead and get their internship set up early enough. Our students are asked to set up their internships themselves rather than relying on their parents to do it for them. This is difficult for them, but it is a good experience that prepares them for college and the workplace. Finding an interesting place that will allow them to intern can also be difficult. Many organizations and businesses accept college students for internships but not high school students. Most of them want the intern to work longer than a week which is not possible for us.
Despite these frustrations, the benefits of doing an internship are unbelievable. When students write about their experiences, they say things like, “I now know for sure that this is what I want to do for a living.” Equally important, they may tell me they know that they do not want to do it! I have heard, “I never worked that hard in my life! Now I know that when my father gives me spending money, he worked really hard for that. I appreciate it so much more.” One student said, “I understand more about food production—from the farmer all the way to the store.” Another, “I just cannot sit that long in front of a computer. I thought I would be up doing active things.” I heard, “I didn’t know that a workplace can be a fun place to be. Everyone had a great sense of humor, and they enjoyed being there!”
These are lessons that cannot be taught in the classroom. Organizing and keeping up with an internship program is a huge job—but, it is definitely worth it for the experiences the students have. If your child’s school does not have a program like this, consider an internship during the summer months when your child is out of school. The lessons your child will learn will last a lifetime.