Don’t forget about Nonprofits

We often hear from Internship Coordinators who want to expand their number of placement sites. Many do not consider including nonprofits because they do not see the nonprofit as a business and schools, students and parents link internships with gaining business experience. However, there are two strong reasons to expand internships experiences to include nonprofits.

First, according to a New York Times article that while “the overall economy has been expanding slowly…nonprofits have been growing at a breakneck pace (Anna Bernesek “For Nonprofits a Bigger Share of the Action,” NY Times March 9, 2014).

The article continues that “all told, roughly 1.6 million nonprofits employed 10 percent of the domestic work force in 2010 and accounted for 5 percent of G.D.P.” While many nonprofits are charities others include advocacy groups like the Sierra Club, or local historical societies and conservation groups, sports leagues, local theater groups, and health care services.

Some of this growth in nonprofits can be linked to demographics. As the population ages there is a higher demand for health care services. And the challenging economic climate over the past 5 has increased the needs of poorer Americans.

Second, while many young people may have been involved with a nonprofit in a community service program or as an individual volunteer, an internship gives them a greater opportunity to understand and experience the challenges of the nonprofit today and in the future. An internship at a nonprofit which is part of a school’s structured internship program allows the young person to be an intern rather than a volunteer. Interns will learn how the organization is funded, identify the target market, work on publicity campaigns, become involved in the strategic planning and learn to manage the many volunteers upon whom the nonprofit depends. With the right learning plan and structured experience an internship at a nonprofit is comparable to one at any well-known business.

Today’s young people want to make a difference. And doing an internship with a nonprofit will help them learn solid skills and at the same time enable them to make a significant contribution to their community.

It seems likely that nonprofits will continue to grow and play a vital role in the economy. And now is the time to widen our thinking and include nonprofits in our internship plans.

No Back Rows in Internships

Student engagement is a challenge today. High Schools and Community Colleges are continually looking for ways to ensure that their students are and continue to be engaged in their learning. Many classes are larger than ever and often students, especially in community colleges, self-select their seating.

The students who are most engaged with the material or the subject will choose to sit toward the front of the classroom. These are the students who readily ask and answer questions, demand more information or seek you out at the end of class. But what of those students who populate the last rows? Often they are quiet, will speak when called upon but do not jump to answer questions. They do their classwork and homework but too often maintain a C average. They do not clown around or disrupt the class. And they get little attention in class.

These back row students may not be engaged in the activities around them. It is hard to know if they are checking their Facebook page, messaging or surfing the net on their smart phones. Or they may simply be staring out of the window or asleep. These are the students we know can do better academically and may indeed have much to offer. But how do we get them engaged, especially today, when both time and resources are limited?

As schools and colleges look to increase their high impact practices to get and keep their students engaged in learning many are including internships as part of this strategy. We see more and more of the most ambitious students seek out internship opportunities and we hear from them about how important their internship has been in their school or college experience.

However, internships can be a critical way to get and keep our back row students engaged. In his blog Andrew Marcinek (Ten simple strategies for re-engaging students 11/21/2010) lists “Learn Beyond the Walls” as the number two strategy for student re-engagement.

First year college students who participate in at least one high impact practice such as an internship report “greater gain in their knowledge, skills and personal development” and were “more satisfied with their educational experience” (National Survey of Student Engagement 2013).

While internships have been shown to be key to student re-engagement, internships must be structured, provide challenging learning, have opportunities for reflection and help the student build those all-important one-to-one adult relationships in the workplace. For internships to be of high value for our back row students they must be an integral part of the school or college curriculum. When making that first step into the adult world of work students need the support of their school or college.

In this time of high pressure in education we must not forget about our back row students. We must find ways to ensure that all our students are able to meet their potential.

writing college essay

Use That Internship for a College Essay

The college essay may not be as important as it once was for college admission but it does count. A good essay can show what is important to a student and even make up for some average grades.

Look at this article that was in EdWeek about how doing an internship in high school can be the basis of a quality college essay.


Let us know if your students have used their internship experience as a basis for their college essay.


Photo credit: Rsms / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC 2.0)

high school student intern

Make Way for High School Interns

Make way for HS internsInternships have been around for a long time. And today internships are becoming more popular with high school students. Student see the value of internships as a way to strengthen their resume, get some real world experience and give them an edge in college admissions.

Check out this article on high school internships. Let us know if your students want to do an internship before they graduate.

And let us know what you are doing so that the internship experience for your students is one of value and not one of “grunt work” only.



Photo credit: / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

Take a chance on me

Take A Chance on Me

Too often schools offer internships only to those highly motivated kids who know about them or can find one on their own. And sometimes kids whose families don’t have professional connections or don’t know where to find internships are left out.

Take a look at what one company has done to reach those kids who may feel disconnected. How it uses internships to foster a sense of success and confidence in high school students.

Let us know if you have used internships to pull back those disengaged students so that they can not only graduate but also gain a sense of success and make connections with adults who can help them think about their futures.



Photo credit: Jeremy Wilburn / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Internship Quest Mentor

Response to “It Takes a Mentor”: The Value of a Mentor

A recent Gallup Poll shows the importance of a mentor. According to that poll “Successful “students had one or more teachers who were mentors and took a real interest in their aspirations, and they had an internship related to what they were learning in school.”

Internships for all students, whether they are testing out a career or getting real world experience in their chosen field, should include a workplace mentor. Students have told us again and again that they want someone in their internship workplace who will provide guidance.

The internship mentor is the one who is there to answer any questions, deal with immediate workplace problems, make sure the intern is included in department meetings and is able to attend any training sessions.

Often the intern’s immediate supervisor is busy with the day-to-day work demands and can forget to include the intern in some of the department’s activities.

The mentor often becomes a role model for the intern. Many times the mentor is the person who can help the intern figure out his or her future.

Check out this recent article by Tom Friedman in the New York Times.


Let us know your experience working with or being a mentor to an intern.

college classroom lecture

Why Do an Internship if I’m Going to College?

Students sometimes can’t see the value of doing an internship if they are college-bound.

Check out this article about why internships are important for college admissions.

Let us know if you have found internships for college-bound students help prepare them for the college admission and the college experience.


Photo credit: gorotaku / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Changing the Culture of the High School Internship Before It’s Too Late

In a recent article in Salon High-Schooler’s free labor: Why the Internship problem will get even worse, Matthew Saccaro looks at the pressure high school, community college and four year college students are under to find and complete an internship. While much has been written about 4 year college graduates’ less than rewarding experiences in internships, Saccaro points out that such unrewarding experiences are now high on the list of experience for high schoolers and undergrads.
Reviewing recent research on internships, Saccaro shows that competition for internships is growing “fiercer each year” especially when high school students and undergrads are demanding an internship so that they can include it on their resume. And this pressure seems to push students into choosing a career field early on in their education.
According to Saccaro, many internship experiences seem to be a series of menial tasks and do not include opportunities where the intern can use his knowledge nor challenge the intern in his thinking.
But this does not have to be the case for the high school or college interns. As the demand for internships rise, more and more schools and colleges are aware that a well-structured, internship with robust learning goals can be an integral part of a student’s learning.
Quality internships with real world learning for the student do not just happen. Too often a student is left on his own to find an internship, interview for the role, find his way in a new environment and take on the tasks assigned to him by the organizations. And the sponsoring organization, too often, is not clear about what expectations to set and how to challenge the intern in his learning. Thus the series of menial tasks.
For an internship to be of value to the student and to the organization or business the school and college must be the driving force. The school and college must:
• Help the student find an internship so that the student has an opportunity to explore a career first hand – this includes helping the student explore the reality of available placements – not everyone can intern at Google or Vogue or the NBA.
• Help the student prepare for the interview for the internship. As competition for internships grow students need to build those interviewing skills that will get them in the door
• Set challenging and site-specific learning goals in collaboration with the sponsoring organization
• Ensure that the student has opportunities to reflect on his learning and to build real world skills
• Set evaluation criteria so that the student can demonstrate what he has learned
• Intervene and revisit agreed upon goals if the internship experience is not living up to expectations.
Internships must be a challenging learning experience for the student and not paid work.
When students wonder “what’s in it for me?” when they think about internships, they need be encouraged to think about something more long term than pay. They need to see they will have the opportunity to try on a career, make professional connections for life, learn to network and work collegially, learn new skills, try on different roles and finally figure out “when am I ever going to use this information?”
Schools and colleges must take on the responsibility of ensuring that internships do not become the competitive, unrewarding experience that so many of today’s graduates have endured.
Internships should not be a competition. They should be an exploration.

Turning “Do you want fries with that?” into an Internship

Many of our high school and community college students work part-time. And many work in the fast food industry. We often talk to students about their experiences and find that they do not see the value in the work they do. They say they are only working for money to pay for college, help out their families or do things with their friends. This work experience, while good in preparing students in the discipline of work, can be much more valuable. Whether the school has a formal internship program or internships are found by individual students so their experience can be put on their resumes, turning a student’s part time job into a quality internship experience will prepare him for the future in a career and higher education.

Making that fast food job a quality internship experience.

Before developing a student’s job as an internship speak with his manager. Assure the manager that any activities the student is asked to do will not interfere with his job task or time. The school needs the support of the manager for the student to succeed and most mangers want to help their workers, especially students, to grow. When you have designed the intern’s learning plan share it with the manager and ask if there is anything he would like to add.

Internship Learning Plan goals and activities

1. Understand the business model: Some fast food businesses are franchises. Others may be individually or family owned and others by a larger corporation. Have the student research the business models using the internet and write a report on them focusing on the model of the business in which he is working.
2. Learn about the Manager’s background: Interview the manger to learn about his experience and skills. Some students are surprised about the skills needed to manage a business. Write a profile of the manager.
3. Understand the training needed for employees: The student will have had some training to do his job but may not understand the training that is needed for other jobs. Have the student review the training material of the company and sit in or participate in any training of new employees. Have the student identify anything that could be added to the training.
4. Understand the customer experience: Fast food depends on fast delivery of product. Have the student do a flow-chart of the customer experience. Also have him to a flow-chart of the logistics from ordering raw product to customer delivery.
5. Understand the challenges of staffing: Have the student develop a staffing plan for one week and review it with the manager. If the business relies on shift workers or all-night workers have the student research the challenges of shift working.
6. Understand the products sold: Have the student list all the food products sold and identify which he thinks are the best sellers and review with his manager to see if he is correct. Have the student link high selling products to location and demographics of the area—families, teenagers, older people so that he sees how product decisions are made.
7. Build critical competencies: Students who work part-time will be familiar with working as a team, customer service and focus on achievement in the job. However, dlink login they need to know how to show what they have learned on their resume and in future interviews and will need the help of the teacher to put their experience into words. (see Internship Quest Seminar Manual for specific ideas)
8. Instead of keeping a journal (the staple of internships) have the student write a series of blogs about his activities and learning and share with his classmates. Remember, we want the student to see the benefit of his work and learning experience and move from any negative feelings he may have about the fast food industry.

It’s not what you did but what you learned

It is not the internship placement or job a student has had that is important to a college and a future employer but what the student learned from his experience. Turning a routine, repetitive job into a quality internship will help the student use his experience and learning to attain his goals.

Getting College Mileage out of a High School Internship

Building on an internship experience often helps the student take a first step toward the future. Internships give a student valuable work experience and that experience can be one basis for making all-important college or career decisions.

Students who have experienced Internships that have a robust site-specific curriculum, strong mentoring opportunities to learn about herself, and opportunities for reflection enable the student to actually learn in the real world. Rather than looking at an internship as a series of “grunt” work activities the student who has completed an internship with a strong curriculum and mentoring support can demonstrate how she used her classroom knowledge and tackled a problem finding a solution that worked in the real world.

Caralee Adams writes in Education Week’s College Bound Blog about how internships can become the basis for the all important college essay, but stresses the importance of not merely using the internship as source of general reporting of what the student did, but rather as a jumping off point to examine best condenser mic a specific aspect of the internship, or use a unique experience to relate a lesson learned or view changed and then explain the change of outlook or action taken as a result of the experience.

(Turning a High School Internship Into a College Essay. August 15, 2013)

If your students are involved in internships, make sure they take the time to reflect on their whole experience so that they, and you, can identify their learning. Guiding them in updating their resume and writing a short insert for their transcript describing their experience can help them take a holistic view of their experience. Writing short blogs or Tweets highlighting their experiences will help them to hone their writing skills and help them remember the rich day to day details of their experiences.

When it is time for them to tackle the college essay not only will they have interesting content but they will have had practice in connecting the big picture of their experience with concise ways of presenting it.

It is not where the student interned, but rather what the student experienced and was able to take away from that experience that will influence his decisions and choices going forward that makes for a good essay or good college interview conversation.