High-schoolers intern as educators during summer school programming

Jul 27, 2022

Nine high-schoolers are participating in a pilot internship program at Wareham Elementary School this summer, which aims to give them experience working in education.

“All of them want to work with kids,” Beyond School Time Director Jane Collins-Fondulis said.

The internships are part of a pilot program from the Department of Secondary and Elementary Education, which granted up to $35,000 to participating schools. The state department says online that supporting future educators in developing helpful skills is a priority for the pilot program.

Students had to apply for the summer internship and write an essay describing why they wanted to be a part of the program, Collins-Fondulis said. The program ended up with nine high-schoolers, mostly underclassmen, which worked as the school had a cap of 10 participants, the director said.

“With the younger kids, they look up to you, they see you as a much bigger kid,” Ava Brogioli, one of the student interns, said. “Even with some of the older kids, I think they look up to us.

What’s even better, Collins-Fondulis said, is that three-quarters of the student interns have been involved in after-school programming themselves, some since elementary school.

“That was another, not a criteria, but kind of a priority that the Department of Education had hoped that it would be students who had been involved in after-school programming,” she said, “and what it can mean to a child.”

Two of the students worked with the CARE program last year, but they said their experience as interns was different. They get to help lead instruction. And they’re earning five credits and getting paid $15 an hour.

“Now, I’m able to help and instruct and guide the students,” intern Zora Andrews said.

“It’s kind of like jumping into our childhood when we were younger,” intern Lain Potter said. “We get to build with them and play with toys that we used to play with.”

The pilot program is meant to introduce students to different roles within education, not just teaching. The interns will be placed in different roles based on their interests, but all are meant to work as staff members, Collins-Fondulis said, not just performing tasks like making copies or other busywork.

“The program is about them really working with a small group and helping with some instruction,” she said.

There’s also opportunities for students to work with younger children when small issues arise, like misbehavior or emotional outbursts.

Intern Robert Sylvia was able to help calm one student down while walking them to the office after misbehaving. He said that just taking a walk with the student and talking it through helped them calm down enough to return to class.

“I feel like you can even help them cope when they’re not communicating,” he said. “Sometimes there’s a hiccup in their day.”

Day-to-day activities could see the interns working with students in the classroom on project-based learning, or spending time at the beach, or playing pickleball, the director said. Days are broken up into educational and enrichment activities, giving students plenty of time in-and-outside of the classroom.

“It’s really great to help the kids do things on their own, because they’re working to be independent,” said Jeffrey Poirier, an intern who works with the STEAM class.

The students said they’ve been wowed by the many opportunities available to the kids in the program, including field trips to Buttonwood Park Zoo, swimming and rope climbing at the YMCA, the Onset Bay Center, Little Harbor Beach and Great Neck Wildlife Preserve.

Poirier pointed out that the program is a refuge for some kids.

“You have your own world,” he said of the kids participating in the summer programs. “If there’s nothing to do at home, you have something to look forward to.”