LONGMEADOW – Thanks to an internship program at Longmeadow High School, seniors can get real-world, on-the-job experience and class credit at the same time. Meanwhile, businesses, organizations and agencies get a first look at future job candidates.
“We’ve been talking in Longmeadow about student success, and this is one way to explore that,” said Longmeadow Public Schools Superintendent M. Martin O’Shea. “We did some pilots in the 2020-2021 school year,” but the program began in earnest last year. “We’re really proud of it,” he said.
There are 23 students participating in internships this semester and roughly amount in the spring, said Career Education Coordinator Erin Corbett. That is twice as many as last year. Corbett attributed this to students sharing their “positive experiences” with others and with an effort to let all rising seniors know about the program at the end of their junior year.
O’Shea said the district decided to make the internships into a for-credit class, rather than extracurricular. The internships take place over two double blocks and two single blocks of class time throughout the week, totaling about six hours in the community, minus the travel time to and from the high school. The internship runs for one semester, but Corbett said internships may be extended to a full year on a case-by-case basis. Some of last year’s interns were even hired by their mentors after the school year ended, she said.
O’Shea said the program allows students to “engage immersively. It’s highly individualized and allows kids to follow their own path,” whether that includes higher education or a technical field.
While Corbett cannot always guarantee a student’s first choice of placement, she works with them to find three options in which they are interested. She then reaches out to the organization or business to connect them with the students.
“We have a lot of students at unique places,” Corbett said, though some locations have multiple interns. There are several students interning at various schools in the district. Among other intern placements are the town manager’s office, the Springfield Thunderbirds, Baystate Medical Hospital, Longmeadow Police and Fire departments, Springfield Police Department and Ondrick Materials & Recycling. There is even a virtual internship with Digital Surgeons of New Haven, CT.
Some students need to be certified by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration before beginning work. In those cases, Corbett said, the district partners with School-to-Career, a MassHire Hampden County Workforce Board. If the students and parents are comfortable signing waivers, Corbett said they can place students practically anywhere.
“Healthcare is always a field [in which] we’re looking for more places,” Corbett said, as well as in finance and real estate. She said that there has not been much interest from businesses in the trades, such as carpentry, electrical and plumbing. Corbett emphasized that LaPlante Construction was the exception. “We totally appreciate them,” Corbett said. She attributes the difficulty to companies in those industries being “stretched thin,” and that the intern “might not be able to do much besides watch and ask questions.”
“If there are agencies, organizations of businesses that want to partner with us, we’d love to speak with them,” O’Shea said.