Coming Back to Internships Post COVID-19

Senior, Erin Vollers, is involved with an internship where she works with animals. She goes in-person, and it is questionable whether she would have been able to have this experience last year with the COVID-19 restrictions.

Contributed by Laura McSpirit

Senior, Erin Vollers, is involved with an internship where she works with animals. She goes in-person, and it is questionable whether she would have been able to have this experience last year with the COVID-19 restrictions.

Francesca Sanelli and Hannah Elbogen

Although, COVID-19 is still present, strides towards normalcy have been made in many aspects of life. COVID-19 has not stopped the internship program coordinator Laura McSpirit from giving students valuable opportunities and unforgettable experiences.

McSpirit explains that since the program works with over 250 businesses, the COVID-19 restrictions differ between each business, however, many of the companies want the students participating to be vaccinated, especially with the number of students in internships increasing for the 2021-2022 school year.

“There are some smaller mom and pop places that we work with that don’t require it,” Mcspirit said. “Anyone that had to go into the medical field [were required to be vaccinated].”

Last year, some students went in once or twice a week to conference with their mentors and then, their mentors gave them work to complete virtually, to make up for the lost in-person experience.

Mainly all of the businesses that the program collaborates with were virtual last year, besides trade work. For example, students that participated in plumbing, carpenter, and electrician internships last year were able to receive the hands-on experience that other students missed.

Students from Pascack Valley, Pascack Hills, Emerson Junior-Senior High School, and Park Ridge High School, are all eligible to be a part of the internship program as well as the students from the Teacher Cadet program – an internship specifically for aspiring teachers, run by PV English teacher Casey Gotliffe.

This year 160 students are taking part in the internship program which is a great increase from last year.

“Unfortunately we had to drop kids last year, if we couldn’t find a place for what they were looking for,” Mcspirit said.

Compared to last year, there are more internship opportunities this year across the board. The only businesses that have decreased are those in the medical field, but they are opening back up and taking more students.

McSpirit typically meets with the junior class in January, this gives them time to plan out their senior year schedules.

If the students are interested in the program, they fill out a simple application about what they are looking for.

“We meet with them individually, last year we did it all through zoom calls, but we usually have a face to face [interview] and we make it like a real interview [to prepare them for the future],” McSpirit said.

The next step of the process is called “matchmaking,” where students get placed in a program that matches their interests and personality. This then leads to an interview with their assigned program.

“Usually we try to do [the interviews] before the end of the school year, but we have so many kids in four different schools, so it does run through the summer,” Mcspirit said.

Lastly, after the student meets with their mentor they are able to get started interning in September or even before that if they choose to. In some cases, students who participate in the internship program can get a job at the business they interned for. McSpirit is happy that businesses are opening and allowing more opportunities for the interns of this year and years following.