Ligonier Valley High School seniors have a unique opportunity that puts them ahead of the game when entering into college or trade school. The advantage for the learners comes from the school’s internship program, created in 2017 by teacher Corey Turcheck, with Martin Hickey currently teaching and coordinating.
According to Hickey, more than 120 learners have gained experiences in careers of their choice with local businesses, interning five days per week and a minimum of three hours per day for a full semester (18 weeks) onsite with their mentors since the inception of the program.
“A typical day consists of the learners attending class in the morning and working onsite at their chosen internship each afternoon,” Hickey explained. “Each learner will coordinate with their mentor on their weekly schedules and the work assignments for each week. Each mentor plays a key role in the development of each learner and volunteers to provide each learner ‘real world’ experience in their particular job.”
Hickey said the learners gain practical knowledge on professional dress, being on time for work, asking questions on a daily basis, and conducting themselves in a professional manner during their internship. “They also learn how to interact with their co-workers and learn about the various dynamics of the office setting — all lending itself to a better understanding of their career choice,” he emphasized.
Through the program, learners present a mid-term and a final presentation to their classmates in which they reflect upon what they have learned during their internship throughout the semester. Some learners choose to complete two different internships at two different companies and will present for each company experience.
Community support makes this program happen, according to Hickey. “Our fantastic local community businesses and mentors have allowed for our learners to have the opportunity to explore careers in veterinary science, medical careers, cybersecurity, accounting, sales and marketing, wealth/financial advisors, real estate, physical therapy, nursing, law, education, nonprofits, and many more,” said Hickey. “And all learners have the ability to work in a career of their choice. If any local business would like to participate in our program and would like additional information, I encourage them to visit our school website or contact me at the high school.”
Continued Hickey: “Every year the learners reflect on what they have learned from our internship, and some of their comments include:
• Overall, the internship program definitely creates a better environment from a senior standpoint. It gives you help on deciding what you want to do with your future.
• I am very glad that I did the internship opportunity. For me, hands-on learning is more beneficial. Because of this, my quality of learning and my enjoyment of school have drastically increased the second half of the year. I feel like I’ve definitely learned more than being in a traditional classroom all day.
• I feel like I benefited from my internship because I ended up switching my major due to my experiences this semester. I knew coming into the internship program I either wanted to pursue a career in law or accounting. The internship program allowed me to decide that I would rather go into accounting than law. The upside to leaving school every day is that it taught me time management. People who stayed in school are forced to follow the schedule provided for them. This program taught me how to make my own schedule and how to adapt when things don’t go according to plan. Another plus is working in a professional setting. The people who stayed in school most likely do not have much experience in a professional setting. The internship program has provided me with this experience that will make it easier to transition from high school to college and eventually a job.
• I think most of my friends were jealous that I got to leave school very early every day because they thought that I could basically go do whatever I’d like and it was a free for all, which is not true. I personally believe that I benefited from the internship program because it gives you real world experiences instead of just learning from the books in different classes. In my case, it has helped me so far decide what certain aspects about the business that I don’t enjoy and what I do enjoy. For me, I think I truly benefited from learning how to actually run a business rather than the actual profession itself.
• I think the internship program built me to be more communicative with people I’m around and to be held accountable for things. It also showed me how to build as a learner and a future nurse. The internship definitely benefited me in a positive way because, at first, I was unsure if nursing was for me. But, once I was able to get in-person experience, it proved to me that I have what it takes to obtain this job in the future. If I had the chance to go back and change it, I never would. This program really changed my outlook on nursing and all-around communication with others in such a positive way I would never change a thing.
• This internship really gives you a firsthand and eye-opening experience into the field of which you think you want to get into. All of my classmates will not get those experiences while sitting in the classroom, and I think that this is very beneficial and should be in all schools. I feel like I am able to thrive more in my career now because of the opportunities that the internship experience has opened up for me.
Class of 2022 graduate Khorter Drury completed an internship in cybersecurity and feels extremely confident in his skills going into the major at Saint Francis University in Loretto after his experience with Navisec, a cybersecurity company.
“The internship at LVHS taught me so much, and I feel a stepahead as I enter college,” said Drury. “I really appreciated the opportunities with Navisec to work alongside employees in the company and learn how to complete penetration testing and vulnerability assessments while I also learned programs and codes that I will see in college. I’m extremely appreciative of this opportunity, overall.”
“As we enter our seventh year offering our learners this beneficial opportunity to learn about a career that interests them, a special thanks to all our local community businesses and mentors that support our program because without you this program would not exist,” Hickey emphasized. “The ongoing support of the Ligonier Valley School District in providing opportunities for our learners is also much appreciated!”