Haldane seniors take internships in final weeks of school
by Alison Rooney
It came across over and over again in most of the committees involved in Haldane’s Strategic Planning Committee last year: our graduates need practical experience. Echoed at the collegiate level, where internships for students are part of the marketing arsenal of many an institution, there seems to be consensus that it is beneficial both personally and professionally to young people to “get out there” and sample a world beyond the classroom.
Haldane has had a senior internship program for quite some time, on and off. With the advent of multiple Advanced Placement classes for some of the student body, their workload and presence in class stipulations (often put forth by the accreditors for the classes, which, in Haldane’s case, usually means SUNY-Albany and/or Dutchess Community College), have placed limitations on students’ ability to devote time and focus to internships. During the 2014-15 school year, the program took a breather as it was re-configured.
This year the program has returned. Haldane history department’s Melissa Seideman is the coordinator and has been working with teachers, potential employers and students. Approximately half of this year’s senior class has opted in, and quite a few students have fanned out within the community and as far as New York City for 15 to 20 hours each week.
For non-AP students, the program runs for seven weeks, while the obligations of the AP exam schedule limit other students to half that, although extensions into the summer and/or a shift to paid employment are always possible. Students are required to approach places they are interested in, providing the company or organization with a list of site supervisor responsibilities and a commitment form. Employers are asked to provide written feedback for the students, who can be paid or unpaid, at the conclusion.
The students’ responsibilities include several written assignments each week relating to what they’re doing, maintenance of time logs, and a presentation addressing what they learned. All interns are also required to complete an economics project related to their internship. The attendance requirements, particularly for AP classes, used to be more stringent, and negotiating for looser reins was one the changes this year to the program.
Two Haldane seniors are working in construction jobs in the Bronx which will provide them with various certifications, while another is working in Manhattan at a textile design firm and, also in the city, a fourth student is working at a soup kitchen. Closer to home, students are or will be helping at cultural institutions, including Gallery 66NY, the Depot Theatre and Hudson Valley Shakespeare.
Students interested in the teaching profession can tap into both Haldane and Garrison School classrooms, as well as pre-schools. Marley Chefalo is a few weeks into her internship at The Nest childcare in Cold Spring, and says she’s loving it. “I intend to get a dual degree in Early Childhood Education and Special Education and it’s a good idea to do an internship in the field and get a real idea of what it’s like before starting to take classes,” she says. “I did a lot of babysitting but I’ve been surprised at the difference, both how crazy everything can get in a room full of toddlers — one cries, the next one starts — but also the opposite — when they are all happy, that’s the best part.”
Chefalo has found juggling the internship, which fills 10 hours a week but will switch to 15 shortly, with her commitment as an athlete at Haldane has not been difficult. “I’m so happy that I chose to do this,” she said. “To actually work hands-on in a field you want to pursue is so much better than sitting in a classroom.” Chefalo is a Nest graduate herself (Class of 2003) and is working with the head teacher of the toddler room, Helen Homola, who calls Chefalo “awesome” yet nevertheless has enjoyed “embarrassing her from what I remember of her toddler years!”
Chefalo has yet to change a diaper, but she knows it’s coming. For Sandy Timmons, who runs The Nest, hosting an intern has been enjoyable and easy. “It’s giving Marley a lot of experience, and she’s taking the demands of it in stride,” she says.
For other students, the internship is a way to experience a field they are interested in but have no experience with. Allisen Casey will begin her internship with Garrison School psychologist Jessica Van Dekker in a couple of weeks, after the conclusion of her last exam. Casey plans to major in psychology but also has an interest in business. “It will be a great addition to not only my resume but my understanding of the field,” she says. “The benefits of a hands-on experience are undeniable. You learn what you like, what you don’t like, how you work in certain environments, etc.”
Already, Seideman is tweaking the program for next year, when she plans to add instruction in creating resumes and cover letters, interviewing and a database of companies willing to take high school interns. All seniors will also take a career profile test.
Businesses or organizations interested in working with a Haldane senior can email Seideman at [email protected]