As the school year comes to a close, nearly every New Canaan High School senior is turning to the increasingly popular Senior Internship Program to provide them with the real-world job experience that is expected of them in college and beyond.
May 22 marked the first day students ventured into New Canaan and surrounding towns’ businesses and organizations to join the workforce as interns. Assigned jobs ranged anywhere from gardening at churches to working in interior design.
Run by Program Coordinator Heather Bianco, ‘SIP,’ as it’s known, reached a record-high number of participants in 2018, at 94 percent of the graduating class.
While it earned high marks from past participants, the program still needed some adjustments this year, Bianco said. In the biggest change, she said, students now can see participating companies when identifying their interests.
“Our biggest success with our eighth year in the program was the way we handled placements,” Bianco told NewCanaanite.com. “This was the first year students viewed the available positions and got to rank them in terms of interest.”
To intern Grace Brady, who works at the Carver Center in Norwalk, that made all the difference.
“I wanted to do this internship because I am able to directly give back to the communities surrounding New Canaan, and see its impact on a personal level,” Brady said. “I wanted to see if nonprofit work was something I’d be interested in in the future.”
She is working alongside nine other interns at the Carver Center, where they are tasked with three main projects—restoring the playground, creating an alumni association, and planning ‘Friday Fun Days.’
Since its debut in 2011, SIP has been received very well by participating employers. New organizations, such as the Carver Center, are seeing for the first time how high school interns can benefit their cause.
“I am thrilled to have nine dynamic, intelligent seniors interning with me to promote our mission of building lifetime achievers and helping kids with the most challenges graduate,” Director Janine Smith said.
The New Canaan Chamber of Commerce is on its fifth year of participation in New Canaan High School’s internship program. Executive Director Tucker Murphy—a member of the volunteer steering committee that supports Bianco and program founder Susan Carroll, coordinator of the College & Career Resource Center—said that this year, she made sure to plan out the projects her intern would be working on so she wasn’t left empty-handed.
The Chamber’s intern, Kaitlin Kearns, said she has particularly enjoyed the opportunity to be out and about at the Elm Street organization.
“I’ve appreciated not just sitting, mindlessly filing without human interaction. It’s nice being able to talk to people around me,” Kearns said.
Daily tasks can range from sitting in on meetings with her bosses as well as getting to have hands-on project experience, Kearns said.
Kearns’s main project surrounds expanding a database of the town, so that New Canaan tourists can easily access store and restaurant information online.
“The interns are all technological natives,” Murphy said. “We’re immigrants.”
The importance of the program expands beyond just what tasks are immediately assigned, Murphy said. “Down the road Kaitlin wants to be in business, and now she’s learning critical skills like how to set yourself up in a meeting and work with people,” she said.