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'I now feel more prepared:' Amherst high school finds creative ways to secure internships during pandemic

'I now feel more prepared:' Amherst high school finds creative ways to secure internships during pandemic

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Facing difficulties with getting full access to businesses because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Amherst County Public Schools has found ways to make sure seniors had internship opportunities this year.

The Work for Success Career Internship program drew about 50 students who have finished or are in the process of completing the program, said Rebecca Booth, a business teacher at Amherst County High School, during a recent presentation to the county’s school board.

Internships in the era of the coronavirus have been challenging and required outside the box thinking as far as using the division’s own resources in many cases in giving students career-based scenarios, according to the school officials.

“Often we rely on businesses and industry to take our students on for internships,” Superintendent Rob Arnold said. “A lot of them have been unavailable to do that this year so we’ve been very creative.”

Booth said it’s been rewarding to see the program benefit student’s workforce readiness skills and positively affect their future endeavors.

“Several students have opted to work with a teacher or staff member for their workplace experience,” Booth said. “We’ve seen really great success with this.”

Through the program, students also have received workplace experience in businesses such as Food Lion, McDonald’s, Anderson Country Market, Rolling Delight Stables and Sweet Briar College’s food services, among others.

The primary objective is to provide an exploratory investigative opportunity for seniors to gain knowledge and understanding of career paths, Booth said. Giving insight into jobs students may want to jump into or decide to go in a different direction, the program also helps with interviewing techniques and sharpening communication and leadership skills.

Arnold has said the division strives to prepare “life ready” students that in today’s environment a lot of times means employment directly after high school. The school system’s career and technical education program receives much participation and the new CTE Academy at Central Virginia Community College is opening up more opportunities.

Brianna Ellington, a senior at ACHS, is doing her internship through Royal Delight Stables in Amherst. Her supervisor said Ellington exceeds all expectations in her responsibilities, Booth read from remarks submitted during the Amherst County School Board’s meeting April 15.

Booth added it’s amazing to watch Ellington give riding lessons. Ellington said in comments Booth read that she has enjoyed the internship that has given her valuable experience.

“I have learned through my experiences the value of hard work and how to work as a team,” Ellington said. “I feel I now have a good idea on what it’s like to run your own business and what it’s like to work closely with the public on a day-to-day basis ... Having this internship has been a great lesson on dealing with real life problems and situations. I now feel more prepared to obtain my goals and have the career I always wanted.”

Bolden Daniels, an ACHS student with a deep interest in welding, has worked three days per week at Banker Steel in Lynchburg through the program, Booth said. The opportunity has given him much needed experience and Daniels hopes it will lead to a full-time position after graduation, she said.

Gracie Stinson, the only junior taking part in the program, is doing her work through the Amherst Lancer Tech Club. The technology work she has helped with includes graphic design, website development and live-streaming events, meetings and sports, which was crucial for the community with no spectators allowed to attend the winter season contests because of the virus.

Mike Cargill, the Tech Club’s instructor, describes Stinson as an “outstanding intern who will impress any future employer.”

“I would love to tell you everything I’ve learned from Mr. Cargill but I think you would like to go home tonight,” Stinson told school board members of the valuable experience she is getting.

Stinson said she is grateful for the opportunities available and she also has helped teach other students in areas of livestreaming. “That has probably been one of my favorite parts,” Stinson said.

In pursuing a career in technology, Booth added of Stinson: “I think she’s well on her way.”

CJ Rose, a senior, said he has enjoyed working through the program at Food Lion in Amherst. A manager wrote Rose is a great asset to the store’s team, highly dependable and a quick learner able to perform any task given. Rose said he is thankful for the internship opportunity and described the experience as rewarding in teaching how to be accountable and responsible on the job.

“I feel like all those things are part of being an adult and part of growing up,” Rose said.

The board praised the program’s effectiveness in helping students find careers and make decisions regarding their futures. Vice Chair Abby Thompson said she looks forward to the program expanding in the future.

“I’m glad that program is making an impact on their lives,” board member John Grieser said.

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