The junior class at Healdsburg High School held its seventh annual Internship Presentation Night on March 7in what has become a tradition of initiation for students preparing for college and careers. The award-winning program is funded in part by the Healdsburg Education Foundation and sets Healdsburg High School apart not only in Sonoma County, but state and nationwide.

Presentation Night represents the culmination of the students’ internship experiences, which last six days over the course of three weeks, and of three years of preparation in cultivating real world skills. Starting their freshman year, students are taught how to write resumes, draft cover letters and find volunteer opportunities that suit their interests and bolster their college applications and job resumes.

They also learn what it means to be a professional, from appropriate dress to having good manners. By the time they reach their junior year, students often have a clear idea of where they want to intern, and they walk confidently into their presentation classrooms dressed to impress; greeting each of their guests — mentors, parents, teachers, and community members — with a welcoming handshake.

While certain businesses and careers are perpetual internship favorites among students, some years Shelley Anderson (Work Based Learning Coordinator at HHS) has to seek out entirely new mentors to match student interests. This year, 11 students wanted to study Marine Biology, which Anderson correlates directly to the introduction of a Marine and Freshwater Ecology class at HHS during the 2016-2017 school year.

Without having encountered this request before, Anderson was thrilled when she found the UC Davis Marine Laboratory in Bodega Bay, which welcomed all 11 students. They all loved their experience, and two of the young women insisted they will soon be getting their diving certifications and returning to volunteer at the marine lab this summer.

Other new additions to the roster of mentors included the Santa Rosa Symphony, Kane Thistle Construction, Revel Graphic Design, Healdsburg Prune Packers, Pam Enz (a local costume designer) and the Healdsburg Education Foundation (HEF).

Yuliana Gutierrez, who interned with HEF, was drawn to working with a nonprofit because she wants a job helping others, in particular at risk youth. In her presentation, she talked about learning the ins and outs of how nonprofits are structured, and the critical role that HEF plays in supporting public schools.

Though some students realized in the course of their internships that the given career was not one they wished to pursue, their teachers and mentors were quick to remind them that this too, is valuable knowledge. Better to rule out a career path early on than to pursue a degree or certification only to learn later that it isn’t a good fit.

Equipped with the skills and insights they gained during their internships, each student now has a clearer idea of what they would like to study in college, and what steps they would have to take in order to achieve their ultimate goals. For some, the relationships they formed with their mentors will last for years, aiding them in making career decisions, helping them network with others, or even offering them a job upon graduation.

Given the difficulty of figuring out how to navigate the work world, it is hard to understate the lasting impact of the Junior Internship Program for these students.

If you would like to donate to this program or others funded by the Healdsburg Education Foundation, visit www.hefschools.com or on Facebook @HEFschools.

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