Local students get business experience before graduation

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published December 7, 2016

 Lake Shore High School student Deidre Supanich stands with a chef she interns with, Shannon Jekielek.

Lake Shore High School student Deidre Supanich stands with a chef she interns with, Shannon Jekielek.

Photo provided by Tasha Candela

ST. CLAIR SHORES — It’s a staple of the college experience — the internship.

But now some high school students are getting the opportunity to get business experience without shelling out big bucks to pay for college credits in a field they may or may not end up liking.

Lake Shore High School senior Victoria Perry interned at Beaumont Family Medical Center in St. Clair Shores. She said she is interested in human and veterinary medicine, so she appreciated the chance to get experience during an internship to help her make a decision.

“I wanted to know if medicine was the right field for me,” she said.

Through the internship, she learned about different careers in the medical field, from doctors to nurses and registrars. She even got to meet some medical students and residents.

“Just to see an aspect of what I was getting myself into in the future” was a great benefit, Perry said. “I was glad I got this opportunity because it was shocking I got to do a lot of stuff. It was more hands-on than I expected.”

Lake Shore High School web design and internship teacher Tasha Candela, who is also the school’s instructional technology coach, said that she saw a need for a co-op experience for her students, which wasn’t offered at the school. Three years ago, she launched a pilot internship program with three students. It was so successful that she opened it up to 10 students per trimester last year.

Now, she said, she has a stack of applications on her desk and her pick of the best students for the program.

The career field experience class, as the internship program is called, takes place during the school day, with the students providing their own transportation to their placement at one of 15 local companies. The students work five hours per week job shadowing a worker in their chosen field, getting hands-on experience and having a chance to get their questions answered by someone actually working in the field. Some of the positions are paid and some are not, and the students are responsible for turning in time sheets and journal entries about their experience while also receiving feedback about their work from the employers.

“I take really good kids, highly recommended kids,” Candela said. “All 20 are so pleased with what they’ve done.”

Perry, working with an obstetrician/gynecologist, learned how to take blood pressure, call patients into the room, and was even able to watch a birth control implantation procedure, as well as learn how to listen for a fetus’s heartbeat. 

Riley Mazza, also a senior at the school, is interning at Selfridge Air National Guard Base in Harrison Township. He is interested in law enforcement and has been working with a law enforcement sergeant on the base, going over reports and analyses of incidents. 

“I got to see what was going on on the base,” he said. “I get to see what other aspects there are to police aspects.

“I find it very interesting, and I believe the work they’re doing is important.”

The students have an opportunity to take the class for more than one trimester, as well. And Candela said that the businesses hosting her students appreciate the help.

“They are so grateful for the extra hands, the extra help. It’s an incredible learning experience that, to me, cannot be duplicated in the classroom,” she said. 

She said working with businesses in the community is even helping to improve classroom experiences. When companies provide feedback about knowledge that students may be lacking, Candela passes it on to the appropriate teacher at the high school — if there is one that matches that career — to help improve the curriculum.

“I take that constructive feedback back to the classroom.”

Melissa Neagos, a senior, did her internship at Wee Love Daycare in St. Clair Shores, and it turned into a part-time job. Neagos said she is interested in being a child psychologist and loves working with the children and building relationships with them, especially the 4-year-olds. 

Now that her trimester of interning is through, the company offered her an after-school job. She goes directly to the daycare center after school each day and works until it closes at 6 p.m.

She was surprised at that result.

“I thought it was going to take two or three times (of interning),” she said. But the management at the daycare center “likes the way I work with the children.”

“The biggest perk about it is they are being able to apply knowledge from the classroom or they’re being placed into ... an opportunity they wouldn’t have because we don’t have a class,” Candela said.