Why High School Students Should be Interns

Most students don’t think about an internship until they get into college. But the sooner students explore options along their career path the better. Internships are powerful learning experiences that can ignite interests, sharpen goals, and shape their future path.

At Quest Forward Academy, our Pathways Program prepares students for their unique futures. The Pathways Program supports all of our students every step of their journey through high school, and the Pathways Network continues and expands upon that support up to 6 years into their post-secondary lives.

Our program is constructed on the idea that not all students pursue the same path after high school. Students receive full support in exploring one of four paths after high school: college, trade school, the military, or direct-to-career for a job with training opportunities. Our students are empowered to explore and discover which path is best for them, and shape their high school experience to align with that future path. Each student completes at least two learning-rich internship experiences.

The benefits are significant. Quest Forward Academy students have an incredible head start to their adult lives.

When students participate in internships early in their careers, they’re able to learn about themselves, discover job opportunities, create connections, and step into real life, according to Education First. Studies also show that students who participate in internships have more meaningful experiences to include on their resumes and benefit from networking early in a career field of their choice.

Participating in an internship early on in a career can help guarantee long-term retention for employers. It can also mean higher pay increases or signing bonuses for those who complete internships. Employers report that internships are influential in hiring decisions.

Quest Forward Academy parents really appreciate the importance of preparing for individual paths. Tracy Geldert’s son, Graysen, was an intern with AKA Electric, an electric contracting company, this year.

Tracy expresses a great deal of appreciation for her son’s opportunities with the Novato-based electric company’s owner, Kevin Kroner.

“As much as I loved the trade itself and the opportunity for him to pick it as a career, I loved that he got the experience of responsibility, etiquette, customer service, teamwork… so much beyond the actual subject at hand,” said Tracy.

Graysen transferred from a public high school in Sonoma County where he often felt unmotivated and uninspired. He struggled to envision a path beyond high school that would be a good fit for him and his interests. It was a difficult time, until Graysen started at Quest.

Quest Forward Academy student Graysen smiles at a desk with blueprints during his internship through the Pathways Program.
Graysen, class of 2021, was head over heels to be working every day with his hands. Here he is working on blueprints of one of his many internship projects.

Before he started his internship, Graysen said, “I had no idea what I was going to do or where I was going to go.” He was planning on going to college. “I thought that was my only option. And then I did my internship with my boss and I learned about trade school and electrical work. I kind of fell in love with that because I like to use my hands in my line of work.”

Graysen said that his internship is preparing him very well for life after school. “I want to go to trade school and become an electrician and become certified to go down that career path. It’s definitely set me up pretty well,” he said.

“It’s really nice to be able to explore other opportunities and what they would be like if you were to actually work at that job,” said Graysen.

Kevin, Graysen’s internship host, said it was genuinely nice to see Graysen learn and embrace the learning process. “College isn’t for everybody and sometimes going to work straight out of high school isn’t for everybody either. So it was just a great experience for him to see what he likes and what he doesn’t like.”

The most valuable thing internship host organizations receive from this type of experience is a life-changing relationship.

“It’s a form of mentoring, you know? It was good for our guys… it was good for us, as much as it was good for him,” said Kevin.

The partnership also helped create a pipeline of full-time employees at AKA Electric. Kevin has offered Graysen the opportunity to work full-time when he’s able to. 

“Companies should be open to bringing somebody on with a younger perspective on things.” As employees begin to prepare for retirement, it’s important to begin working with the next generation to carry on the work. 

Kevin said, “It helps to have a fresh perspective from a person that’s younger than us on the job.”

Despite the pandemic, quite a few of our students were able to participate in a number of virtual internships. Internship host organizations became creative with the way they worked with students in a professional setting. 

Lillian, a rising senior, is completing her internship with Remote Sensing Systems (RSS), a computer programming company that uses code and science to solve real world problems, like climate change. 

Lillian’s virtual internship has helped her gain a proficiency in Python, one of the most popular programming languages. She uses those skills in her internship to map concentrations of sea ice. Prior to this experience she had minimal exposure and understanding of coding languages. 

A composite image shows lines of Python code that creates data sets used to identify concentrations of sea ice and a map of sea ice concentrations around the North Pole.
This Python code from Lillian, Quest Forward Academy class of 2022, identifies data representing land, ocean, and unknowns and creates a new set of data to identify sea ice. Lillian also created the map above, showing sea ice concentrations near the North Pole, using her new programming skills.

“I’m definitely more prepared because I’ve been able to see what it’s like,” to do this kind of work, said Lillian. She’s been able to attend staff meetings and has “gained a lot of real-world experience that I wouldn’t have been able to get from just being in a classroom.”

Without a doubt, students who pursue internships earlier on in their career and education benefit from it tremendously.  

“If you can do an internship, do it, because it will make you more mature and give you a lot of opportunities for skills that you probably won’t otherwise get for a while,” said Graysen. 

 


Learn more about how Quest Forward Academy is transforming the experience students gain in high school. Interested in becoming a host organization and having an intern? Click here.

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