Archive 2008 - 2019

Real World Work Experience for HHS Seniors

by Yvette Cain

At what point in your life did you know what you wanted to be when you grew up?  What if someone offered you the opportunity to “try out” a career before you had to commit to it?

Susan Stone, Career Services Coordinator at Holliston High School, offers just this kind of testing-the-waters experience to students in the Senior Internship Program.  Arriving at HHS 18 years ago from the Metro West Regional Employment Board, Stone oversees some 50-60% of students in the senior class as they work in partnership with businesses in the Holliston community, connecting their academic life with real world work. 

Students apply for the Internship Program during the spring of their junior year.  Stone meets with each student, assesses his or her skill set and interests, post-high school educational planning, and possible internship sites, and then makes a match.  Interested students must secure an endorsement from their guidance counselor or administrator.  The application process includes a student-created work resume of their present skills.  “Sometimes,” Stone said, “this process stuns them.”  They never saw that they had so many skills to offer. 

The one-semester elective class requires approximately 55 hours (2 to 2½ hours a day in their block schedule) in a 10-12 week semester.  It is offered as a Pass/Fail class, but Stone reports that the vast majority pass.  Transportation to and from the internship is the responsibility of each student.  In addition to working with their assigned mentor, students must complete a time sheet, as well as produce a weekly essay to reflect on their learning.

The Massachusetts Work-Based Learning Plan (Work-Based Learning Plan) is also a part of the Internship program, used as an evaluation of the student’s skills gained over the course of the internship.  The evaluation becomes a conversation, much like performance reviews in the “real world.”  The WBLP then becomes another document piece of the student’s portfolio. 

“Students are most appreciative of their individuality as well as their freedom” within the program, Stone reports.  At times, students continue their research into their Senior Project experiences.  Internships have included placement with all manner of Holliston businesses:  interior design, Holliston Youth and Family Services, the elementary schools, landscapers, occupational and physical therapists (also earning students their needed experience time necessary prior to college), teachers (including the French Immersion Program), organizations and non-profits, a veterinarian, and a biotech firm.  Stone mentioned that the students working at the biotech company actually “purified DNA,” demonstrating a real world application of their AP Chemistry class work. 

Chris Johnston, a former HHS intern with Mark Ahronian, is presently a Massachusetts Certified Horticulturist and Designer with Ahronian Landscaping and Design, after finishing his BS in Landscape Architecture at UMASS.  Ahronian claims he owes “many thanks …especially to the director of outreach Sue Stone who does a fabulous job interviewing students and matching them up with businesses like mine.”

Thanks to Susan Stone and the school/community connection made through the internship program, many of Holliston’s graduates have gained experience in a career field before they commit to years of preparation.  They come to see the relevance of their academic studies to work, learn the standards and expectations of the working world and test their decision-making abilities in workplace settings. 

“Having partnerships with the community, we learn from one another,” says Stone.  The students can offer business people a “different perspective that can be very beneficial.”  And students “can be inspired as well as meet some work needs for others.”  “School is a big part of our community.  We need to be connected,” asserted Stone. 

Comments (2)

My daughter worked with Sue Stone on her internship just this past year and it confirmed here desire to pursue a career in Occupational Therapy. Sue was instrumental in coordinating, managing, and directing my daughter through the whole process. Such a great program for HS seniors to utilize and an even better person running it. Thank you, Sue... ken

ken sawyers | 2019-09-10 12:56:21

Nice article Yvette, You explained the program well. Sue Stone's work is a successful model for other communities to share with .

Mark Ahronian | 2019-09-06 03:53:28