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Internships allow students to explore careers

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Photo by Emily Lynn Roque Cisneros High school senior Billie Flonnes sterilizes equipment during her internship at Yost Family Dentistry.

When Billie Flonnes, a senior at Delta High School, walks into Yost Family Dentistry she isn't stopping by for a check-up or filling. She's there to work as part of the Delta County Schools high school internship program.

"I usually jump right in wherever they need me," she said. Sometimes her afternoon means cleaning rooms, sterilizing equipment, or making models of teeth. If a patient is comfortable with it, Flonnes will also fill in as a dental assistant.

"I look forward to when Billie comes in," said Dr. Morgan Yost, her sponsor. "She fits right in and does well; I can see her confidence building."

The internship program is new this semester, with 14 junior and senior high school students placed in internships ranging from health care to automotive. This program serves to help students test-drive careers and gain valuable skills and experience in the workplace.

Internships are unpaid to provide the best learning for students and affordable opportunities for sponsors, but they can be combined with a work study if the sponsor employs the intern for work that extends the learning experience.

Interns work as special assistants to their sponsor, assisting with projects, attending meetings, preparing reports and participating in other organizational activities. This program is available throughout the Delta County Joint School District.

Students like Flonnes spend one to two class periods a day, or eight hours per week, at their internship.

They also complete a weekly work log and have assignments through Google Classroom. Classroom topics include communication skills, human relations, leadership development, and self-assessments.

To qualify for the program juniors and seniors need to fill out an application and be in good standing.

"We place students for one or two semesters with sponsors in their community for the purpose of career exploration," said Kim Klouser, work-based learning coordinator. "Our goal is to give students an opportunity to learn outside of the traditional classroom setting."

If a student realizes from their program a career isn't for them, this is also an opportunity for them to be redirected to a better fit for their future.

Current sponsors include West Elk Clinic, Delta Middle School, Delta High School, Garnet Mesa Elementary School, A Kidz Clinic, Tayshen Automotive, Hotchkiss Automotive, Yost Family Dentistry, Surface Creek Veterinary Center, Surface Creek Family Practice, Cedar Point Health and All American Concrete.

All current interns received positive feedback from their sponsors based on a recent checkpoint evaluation.

"Next school year we're hoping to place 30-40 students district wide and are looking for individuals willing to sponsor interns and teach them about their career and/or business," said Klouser.

She is also hoping to include apprenticeships and job shadows in the future.

Internship sponsors provide opportunity for students to see available options for work and careers right in their own communities. Successful sponsors agree to help interns refine social and success skills such as confidentiality, accountability, work ethic and time management.

Essentially, they act as a mentor and overseer. Interns do need personal attention and sponsors should help develop skills pertinent to the student's specific career interest.

The district also supports sponsors and interns by providing district worker's compensation and general liability insurance. Klouser acts as a liaison between students and sponsors.

If a student is interested in joining the program, they should speak with their school counselor. If sponsors are interested in learning more about what it means to have an intern, they can contact Klouser at 874-6504 or kim.klouser@deltaschools.com.

"If there's a student or sponsor not sure if this program is right for them, they need to realize sponsors are investing in the future of the students," said Dr. Yost.

Because of her experience with the internship program, Flonnes decided to enroll at North Western Community College to become a dental hygienist.

"I know for sure this is the career I want," she said. "Being in the office, doing actual work and learning about the dental field before school -- this is a lifetime experience."

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