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Cottonwood Heights Journal

Internships give Cottonwood High students ‘insider look” ’ at careers

Aug 02, 2022 10:23AM ● By Julie Slama

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

This summer, several Cottonwood High students should be finishing up their 40-hour career and technical education internships and more are likely set to do theirs in the fall.

More than a dozen others, like senior Georgia Barrus, completed internships last spring.

Barrus was interested in teaching and had helped at the Cottonwood High’s preschool. She had heard about internships when she was a freshman, but she had forgotten about it until senior year when Cottonwood work-based learning specialist and internship coach Mary Campbell approached her.

“I was like ‘I'm going to do this because it’s such a good learning experience for me,’” she said. “I’ve taken early childhood class and the preschool class, but then taking the internship and working at Oakwood Elementary School, just confirmed my passion for teaching.”

The internships are optional for juniors and seniors who, if enrolled, receive a pass or fail grade and receive 0.5 credit, but they also have an insider look at working in the career, Campbell said.

“We want to give our students more career exploration and this is a great way to do it,” she said, adding that they have interns working in physical training, libraries, computer science, sports marketing, aerospace and other fields. “Our goal is to see them all graduate with knowledge or skills in whatever they may be interested in. We want to help them toward their career, and this is helping them know ‘this is what it looks like’ before they step into the job.”

Campbell works closely with Granite School District internship development specialist Erin Gubler.

“Many students can use this internship as a way to test if it’s a field they want to pursue, which can save them a lot of money determining that now instead of during college,” she said. “They may also discover different pathways or if the job will help pay for their college or training. It gives them a look into certifications, scholarships or even classes to take if they choose to pursue a certain career.”

Through the internships, students practice their writing, create their own LinkedIn profiles, and learn interview skills as they create resumes and have mock interviews. The students also are paired with a mentor at the internship location. At the end of the students’ internships, they share with others about their experience.

Barrus already had her LinkedIn account, but she said that she’s learned a lot through her internship and was able to bring in some experience she has from her high school education classes, such as creating a daily schedule or a certain activity. During the internship, she helped teach kindergartners, working with students individually and in small groups as well as in the larger classroom setting.

“I’ll ask the teacher what she needs or what she’d like me to do. I’ve helped with circle time, a dance they’re learning, library and music time and math bingo to teach them numbers. What I really like is getting to know them and their personalities. They’ll say what’s on the top of their head and sometimes it’s so funny,” she said. “Sometimes, I learn what works and doesn’t work. Like yesterday, a girl was outside of the playground did not want to come in. It was raining and so I just went out and asked if she wanted to come help me cut off the paper and she instantly got down and came in, held my hand and walked back with me. I was shocked because she wouldn’t come when other teachers called for her to come in, but maybe she just listened to me or wanted a reason to come in.”

Much of her spring, Barrus, or Miss G, as she was called at Oakwood, was at the elementary school three hours two days per week.

“I’m learning how to become like a better leader and how to teach students in a way that will work for them. Like some kids I'll sit down with, and I'll help them with the math. I count out with them, pointing to a picture. Some other kids really need to get blocks out and take away blocks. I have learned it's important to communicate on all levels—the kids, the teacher, parents, everyone,” she said.

Having that internship experience is critical as it helps build students’ experience and confidence, Gubler said.

“It’s impactful and can be an important experience students can use as they prepare life after graduation,” she said. “They’re learning soft skills as well as getting excited about their future skills. Everything they learn will help them as they make career choices.”