CONNECTIONS FALL 2017

JOB FOR A WEEK

WINTERIM INTERNSHIPS

The one-week internships the first week back in January provide a judgement free zone to play with a career, to see if students really like it enough to want to major in it.

We all know college tuition prices have gone up, but it’s still pretty shocking to read from Bloomberg that it’s gone up 1,120% over the last 30 years. According to Gordon Wadsworth, author of The College Trap, that’s 2 1⁄2 times more than normal inflation.

Which puts a great deal more pressure on high school graduates to show up at college already knowing what they want to major in, how they want to employ themselves at the end of those four expensive years.

So how do we, a high school, help them figure that out? And sooner rather than later?

Enter Winterim Internships: Available to HCHS juniors and seniors, the one-week internships the first week back in January provide a judgement free zone to play with a career, to see if students really like it enough to want to major in it. Or do it long-term. Or maybe not do something they really thought they might.

“The opportunity to test drive a career is pretty incredible while still in high school,” says Lydia Frens, HCHS’s Winterim Internship Director. “Some students say, ‘Yup, I really like this.’ Others, ‘Nope, I’m definitely not going to include this in my future’—and both are extremely valuable. It would be valuable for every single junior and senior to do at least one internship during those two years, preferably two times.”

Just over 100 HCHS students seized the opportunity during last year’s Winterim, and everyone who tried it seemed grateful for the chance, even recommending it highly to their fellow schoolmates.

“I would definitely encourage others to look for a really good internship,” says Adrian Huizenga ’17, who interned with a music therapist at Spectrum Health. “Even if it’s not exactly in your field, it can really help broaden your horizon, and you might find something that interests you.”

“Even if you’re positive you’re going to go into something, just do an internship anyways,” adds Madison Palmatier ’17, who interned with WJQK, a Zeeland-based Christian radio station. “You might not only change your mind, you could also totally solidify that thought, and then you have references to take from it—and you have that experience to put on resumes and use as you pursue that career for yourself.”

Colleges and businesses are looking more and more for students who have gone through internships—preferring them over grades or participation in other college programs.

“We always look [to hire] someone who’s done an internship,” explains Scott Beaute of JR Technologies, who hosted Elijah Plaggemars ’17 for the week.

Some students rely on the school finding them an internship location, while others prefer to find their own through family friends, personal contacts, or their own interests. Over the last two years of the internship opportunity, Lydia has recruited about 130 different mostly local organizations willing to host a Holland Christian High School student for the week, often using the students themselves to open the doors for future students as well as themselves.

“It’s valuable for students to create their own internship opportunities, since they’re learning how to network in their own world,” she says. “And often the businesses are more amenable to saying yes to a student than to me! They’ve opened doors that I was unable to open!”

One international student actually flew back to China to intern at his dad’s college; two other students worked in Washington, DC this January for Congressman Bill Huizenga ’87, becoming trained guides for Capitol Hill tours, besides helping out in the office. Another student moved in with a veterinarian in Indiana for the week, helping out with the patients James Herriott style.

Based on the needs and scope of the businesses, many students get to try actual projects and work. A local JB & Me intern did store decorating and real marketing for the local 8th Street clothing store. Another student did photography and marketing for a local cupcake start-up. Yet another student made and produced an actual ad for the Christian radio station WJQK, including the voice and music, and learned that she was naturally quite good at it!

Not only do the internships help students start their resumes in an adult world, they also get to experience adult office life.

“It’s a great way to build relationships, to practice professionalism,” says Jamie Maatman, a social work supervisor with Bethany Christian Services. “Students get a chance to see ‘What does this career look like, and am I cut out for this?’”

Madison Palmatier was struck with “how nice everyone was, and what a nice atmosphere [WJQK] has.” She also found it interesting “to see how everyone interacted, and don’t always agree and get along necessarily, but are definitely a close group of friends who work together!”

Andrea Alsgaard ’17 interned with Fishbeck, Thompson, Carr & Huber, Inc. (FTC&H), an architecture and engineering firm and says, “I never knew how engineers have to really work as a team and do a lot of problem solving, and I never really knew how much time and effort went into such small little details.”

An added internship bonus? Many interns claim afterwards that their internships motivate them to continue studying hard in high school.

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You might not only change your mind, you could also totally solidify that thought, and then you have references to take from it—and you have that experience to put on resumes and use as you pursue that career for yourself.

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“[An internship] gives you context for ‘Why am I learning this stuff?’ It gives some idea for ‘What’s really important for me to know?’ It’s a chance to really apply what they’re learning,” says Jason Raak of JMS Incorporated, where Dylan Nyhof ’18 worked as a mechanical engineering intern for the week.

Andrea’s internship with FTC&H “boosted me to really want to do my absolute best” in her college level chemistry class she was taking at HC, even though the experience caused her to switch her interest from chemical engineering more into civil engineering, a reaction she wasn’t expecting.

It’s a bonus for the businesses, too. They get cheap (free!) labor, albeit short-term, and get to try out employees without making long term commitments to them, as well. Some HC students have even been offered jobs after the internship.

Almost all of our previous business have enjoyed having a high school intern with them for the week, and are eager to open their doors again—it seems to be a win-win situation for both parties. However, we are always looking for more businesses willing to host a Holland Christian junior or senior for Winterim. We train our students beforehand in general professional behavior, show them how to create a resume, and then place them carefully, respecting greatly the work that goes on in each business. But if this sounds good to you, if you or anyone you know is willing to host an HC intern for a week, please contact Winterim Intern director Lydia Frens at lfrens@ hollandchristian.org—she’ll be excited to find a student match!

An internship gives you context for ‘Why am I learning this stuff?’ It gives some idea for ‘What’s really important for me to know?’ It’s a chance to really apply what they’re learning,