By Steve Sears
The program, instituted in 2015, was coming together prior to that year.
Jaime Walker, head of the Guidance Department at Hopatcong High School, says, “We have allowed some juniors into the program depending on what type of internship they’re doing – because some kids do internships on site with a teacher or a staff member – but the program was really designed for kids to go offsite. We have a number of community agencies that we’ve partnered with that are thrilled to have student interns and the kids do receive a grade for it. Right now, we have 6 or 7 who have the option to continue it for the rest of the year, or we do say, ‘This is a good way to explore other careers, and if you’d like to switch your placement, you can go and work somewhere else just to experience something a little bit different.’”
Businesses taking part in the career internship program are not all Hopatcong businesses. Jefferson and Roxbury businesses also take part. Participating businesses include Remax First Choice of Succasunna; Lake Hopatcong Foundation of Lake Hopatcong; Department for Persons with Disabilities in Jefferson; Hopatcong’s Barber Shop Recording Studios, Frank’s Pizza, Westside Child Care, Twist on Thai Cafe’, and the Borough of Hopatcong; and John Maine, CPA. Students appreciate the local aspect because of time or lack of transportation. Some also have early-release or the internship built into their schedule, so that they still can take advantage of after school activities such as athletics or clubs. “Some of the internships,” says Walker, “have led to paid experience. Some of our kids have been offered a job because of their good work as interns.”
Christine Kalemba, an English teacher at Hopatcong High School, is Internship Coordinator. “We’re in our fourth year and it’s going pretty strong. So, in addition to the class load that I have, I run this as well, and I think the kids are very happy that it’s an alternative for them, and I think for making them career-ready and examining career possibilities, I think it’s a nice option for those that are interested.”
More students are encouraged to take advantage of the worthwhile opportunity. “Ultimately we would like to have 10 or 15 students,” says Kalemba, who has to do site visits to internship sites. However, onsite internships at the high school are beneficial to both students and teachers.
“Thinking back to our numbers and where the kids have been placed,” adds Walker, “I think the popularity is with teachers onsite or other staff members. They gravitate towards this particular person, they want to help out, so they’re getting a lot of hands-on experience. and typically the teachers are grateful to have some help.”
The Department of Education does not stipulate that internships must be outside the school day. “We have a young man who is working in school and after school with the athletic trainer because that’s what he wants to study in college,” says Kalemba. “We are giving them (students) the option to examine something. The music teacher right now has a young lady that definitely wants to study music education, so she’s after school with him, preparing lessons; but not everybody is specific to their career path. They’re examining it right now, and this can lead them into that option.” She adds, “The best thing about the program is it gives the students the opportunity to explore and to assess possible career goals, to learn soft skills they’re not getting in academic classrooms, it also serves their transcript – I think future employers and colleges are going to look for this as well and appreciate what they garner from this experience.”