School-to-Career Connections at VRHS

Interns Weigh In

Taylor Riggio McGrath: "Interning at the clinic has solidified my choice of being a nurse. Liz Stella, my mentor, has been such a positive role model."

Abbie Stempel: "I interned at the first accounting firm in our School to Career Program, Mahoney & Sabol. It was a good experience that exposed me to the office life and the general career field of accounting."

Maggie Calamari: I "learned so much about the medical field and narrowed my interests to nursing and more specifically ER nursing, which I now want to pursue."

Cori Camire: "My internship has helped me so much learning and now I have an idea of what I want to do in the medical field."

Trevor Dinwoodie: "This year I chose to do my internship at CT River Electric. My mentor, Paul Dinwoodie, was able to teach me the basics and help me put in hours for my education after high school. I found this internship very interesting and beneficial, and look forward to working with him after graduating."

Christian Caceres: "The internship experience at the Shoreline Clinic not only allowed me to gain greater exposure in the medical field, but it also provided me with personal and professional relationships."

Sean Manierre: "I interned at NuRide, Inc., and started working on their web site and designing new webpages."

Sarah Burzin: "I interned at Essex Elementary School, and I enjoyed interacting with the children and I could only hope that by the end of the semester they could look to me as a role model. My mentors, Mrs. Russell and Mrs. Gagnon were very flexible and welcoming.

Kat Irena: "While at my internship at Dr. Rotella's dentist office I learned many skills to take home and while working in the office. It was an amazing experience I wouldn't have had any other way."

Sarah Curran: "I interened at the Middlesex Clinic and learned so much. The ER is an exciting place to learn. My mentors have let me experience so much and cement my career path as a nurse for the future."

Jocelyn Jaillet: "The kids were amazing; my mentor was amazing. This experience [with Essex Elementary School Music] showed me where I wanted to be in five years."

Valley Regional High School's School to Career Program, open to juniors and seniors, has had a profound effect on the entire community. Run by Mary Hambor, the program started in 2006 with the goal for students to feel as though their internship or job shadow "connects what you're learning in school with real-life experience," Hambor said.

Since then, both students and their mentors have benefitted from the program, and will continue to do so as it expands, especially so with the Valley Regional High School (VRHS) Class of 2015, which, during senior year will be required to participate in an internship or job-shadow. Prior to working as the School to Career coordinator, Hambor worked as a special education teacher focusing on the transition from high school to the real world, especially in choosing a career path. From this experience, Hambor found her passion for helping students decide on a direction to take in life. She started the program from scratch, building it by attending Rotary meetings, conventions, and other events to acquire contacts to set up job shadows and internships.

That networking paid off. During that first year, Hambor managed 13 interns; this school year, she coordinated internships and job-shadows for more than 55 students.

The School to Career-Program is, as Hambor put it, "kind of a win-win." Employers help students learn about their field, and assist interns in determining whether they want to have a job in that career area in the future

The interns, on the other hand, bring new perspective to businesses, including insight on advancing technology. Many of the VRHS interns have even landed paying positions at the place of their internship over the summer.

Other experiences have shown how important the program is to participants. Claire Hurwitt, a member of the Class of 2013 VRHS, had an internship in a 3rd-grade classroom with Mrs. Nodden at Essex Elementary School. Hurwitt helped the class with projects, homework review, and worked individually with students at math. At the end of her internship, each 3rd grader gave Hurwitt a card that he or she had decorated, and each specified in writing a way in which Hurwitt had helped them during her time as an intern.

To Hurwitt, "It was extremely satisfying to know that I helped them achieve and improve in class, which is what I feel teaching is all about."

Hurwitt found that she could not get enough of teaching, and will begin studying elementary education at High Point University in North Carolina this August.

At NuRide, Inc., Bailey Steele interned with Rick Steele and worked with Photoshop to create "Offer Ads" for the NuRide website.

According to Bailey Steele, interning at NuRide "made me realize that the business world and the creative aspect often must coincide in order to create an effective product."

He said that the most rewarding part of the experience was testing his skills in a real business setting as opposed to a classroom.

Response to the program has been entirely positive. Students have returned to Hambor and illustrated in a final-response essay that their experience has helped them with communication skills, time management, organization, and even with confidence.

Hambor said it's sometimes important for students to come back saying they want nothing to do with the careers they sampled.

"I want people to have a career they are passionate about," she said, noting that finding out that one is not interested in a certain area is a large part of that process.

Understanding a career takes being submerged within it, so "until you're really experiencing it, it doesn't make sense as much," Hambor said.

The community has embraced the program, as well-Hambor reports that she has never in seven years had anyone say "No" to mentoring unless resources were a problem.

In the 2012-2013 school year, VRHS had interns at more than 35 sites: A Style Above (Chester), Astrid Couture (Killingworth), Atwood's Auto Appearance (Deep River), Bloom Art School (Essex), Chester Airport, Chester Elementary School, Community Music School (Essex), River Electric LLC (Chester), Cut 25 (New York, New York), Deep River Animal Hospital, Deep River Pizza, Dirt Floor Recording Studio (Chester), Dr. Dana Rotella, DDS, Essex Elementary School, Essex Meadows, Gladeview Rehabilitation and Health Care Center (Old Saybrook), Ivoryton Playhouse, JJL Electric, John Winthrop Middle School, Law Offices of Christopher Morano, Mahoney and Sabol (Essex), Middlesex Hospital (Middletown), My Fair Lady (Deep River), NuRide Inc., Pattaconk 1850 Bar and Grille (chester), Porter and Chester Institute [Branford]), River Valley Stairs, Roberts Physical and Aquatic Therapy (Old Saybrook), Saybrook Country Barn (Old Saybrook), Shoreline Clinic (Essex), Shoreline Orthopedic and Rehabilitation (Essex), the Valley Courier (Madison), St. Vincent de Paul (Middletown), Deep River Historical Society, Deep River Animal Hospital, and several others.

My Internship Experience

Going into the internship program, I honestly had no clue what I was getting myself into. When I walked into the office of Shore Publishing, LLC, I was under the assumption that I would mostly be there for observation and maybe errands.

I was excited to be learning about the field of communications, specifically journalism, as it is something I have always been interested in. I was surprised when I was asked what I wanted to write about by my mentor, Shore Publishing's managing editor, Brian Boyd.

I have had the best experience and have discovered that eventually I want to work as a journalist. As of now, I am going to be attending Loyola University Maryland in the fall and I will be majoring in political science.

This internship experience has truly been the largest highlight of my high school career. Valley Regional is so fortunate to have Ms. Hambor (and every amazing mentor as well)-she has opened so many doors and created so many opportunities for us in the community.

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