Senior Internships: A Glimpse into Adulting
This spring, instead of doodling in their notebooks or mindlessly tapping their feet below their desks, a few seniors will be donning business-casual clothes and spending their days in offices. In lieu of the Packer cafeteria or Dos Toros, their lunch periods will be spent in what is likely uncharted territory. And rather than frantically writing essays and begging teachers for extensions, they will be reporting to their new bosses.
Second semester seniors are notorious for their lack of motivation. After first semester grades are sent to colleges, their academic standing has essentially no effect on whether or not they are accepted, so many feel that they have no reason to try to do well. This subject has long been on the minds of Packer faculty, who have attempted to devise alternative ways for seniors to spend the last stretch of their high school experience. This year, Ian Rumsey, Mathematics Department Head, and Kerry Kline, Upper School Science Teacher, proposed an internship program.
“By the end of senior year, a lot of students feel that they’ve accomplished a lot within the classroom and want to try something new,” said Kerry. “Internships would give them an opportunity to grow while remaining part of our community.”
Pilar Bylinksy (‘20) echoed this sentiment: “It would offer an alternative way to end the year, [which would help] fight against senioritis. By allowing us to drop the classes we don’t find super interesting anymore and to pursue something completely different, we would remain engaged until the end.”
Last year, Kerry and Mr. Rumsey ran a pilot for another program, in which a few students pursued independent projects instead of continuing their classes. The projects were highly individualized, with one student writing and performing an additional scene for a play and another experimenting with insects as an alternative form of protein.
This year’s program aims to provide students with a bit more guidance and to prepare them for life beyond the walls of Packer. While the pilot will only include four seniors, over twenty expressed interest in the program. Accordingly, Kerry and Mr. Rumsey have developed a multi-step process—based on attendance, scheduling, and a lottery—to determine which students will actually participate.
The internships this year will most likely fall under the categories of law/social justice, technology/business, architecture/design, and community-based social services. To find organizations, Kerry and Mr. Rumsey have been working with Tené Howard, Director of Global Programs and Community Engagement, and the alumni network. If the pilot goes well, they hope to expand the program in future years, potentially making it available to all seniors.
“Ultimately, what we’d like to offer is a menu of internship options so that it’s accessible for everyone and not just reliant on connections,” explained Kerry. “If this were to become a bigger thing, we’d have far more areas to choose from.”
As much as an internship would add to one’s high school experience, students who participate in the program will also sacrifice the last several weeks of school with some of their closest friends. The second semester of senior year is an especially emotional time; as students figure out where they will be heading to college, they’re forced to contend with the fact that they don’t have much time left with the people whose faces they’ve seen nearly every day for years.
“This is the time when our grade says its goodbyes and wraps things up, so to miss that would be hard for many people,” said Blair Chase (‘20). “The fact that you won’t be with everyone for the end of the year is a bigger sacrifice than it may seem.”
But many feel that this sacrifice is one they’re willing to make. Ellie Elsesser (‘20), while acknowledging that it would be hard to miss out on her classes and clubs, explained, “We are about to start an entirely new and foreign chapter of our lives, and having the opportunity to begin expanding our worlds now, through a Packer-sanctioned internship that would work with our schedules, would be an incredible starting point for this new chapter.”