Career ConnectionsDecember 7, 2018
Story by Candy Neal
Photos by Brittney Lohmiller
Alex Biehl, wearing a heavy jacket to withstand the cold, stands next to a large crack in the pavement of the access road that runs next to the Huntingburg Airport’s runway.
He aims a long, thin nozzle at the crack, a mobile machine rumbling behind him as a liquid spews from the nozzle into the crack. Alex and his partner, another intern, move slowly, making sure the sealant fills and covers the long crack.
This is one of many jobs that Alex, a senior at Southridge High School, has gotten to do as part of his internship at the airport. And, like most of the projects he’s worked on since his internship started at the beginning of the school year, this is a new experience for him.
“I’ve swept floors, worked on painting yellow lines on the pavement, did the crack sealant, refueled planes and helped pilots refuel planes, directed pilots to they can park,” Alex says. “Other than sweeping floors, I’ve not done any of this before, nothing with planes.”
His supervisors at the airport work with Alex and the four other interns and teach them all the work that goes into maintaining the airport and aircrafts. “It’s been great to learn,” Alex says, “though, it takes a little bit to get used to. But after awhile, you get the hang of it, and it gets easier from there.”
High school seniors across the county are working in internships in various fields they are interested in pursuing as a career: business, technology, medical, aviation. The internship counts as a workplace learning class, and the students are responsible for getting to the internship, doing the work, getting periodic evaluations from their supervisors and writing about their experiences.
Alex chose to intern at the airport to get connected into aviation. His career goal is to be an Air Force pilot.
“My dad served in the Army for 20 years. It always made him feel as an infantry soldier better where there were planes flying overhead, because they had protection,” Alex says. “I feel like being in a plane will not only help protect them but other guys that are around. I feel like I will help more people that way.”
The internship has already proven to be valuable to him and his future goal. Anyone wanting to go into the U.S. Air Force Academy must get a nomination from a congressman.
“I’m being interviewed by (U.S. Rep.) Larry Bucshon for a nomination into the Air Force Academy,” Alex says. “He saw (the internship) on my application to be nominated. That might have been a spark for him.”
Bucshon, who represents Dubois and several other counties in the U.S. Congress, visited the Huntingburg Airport a few weeks ago, though not at the time Alex was doing his internship. Bucshon visited in the afternoon; Alex is at the airport from 9:50 to 11:30 a.m. weekdays.
The congressman showed a great interest in the airport “and all it does for the community and the state as a whole,” Alex says. “So having that on my application was a step up.”
Alex also appreciates learning the inner workings of the airport. “This is also helping me learn about what goes on at the airport and how it really functions,” he says.
Indiana INTERNnet, a collegiate internship network hosted by the Indiana Chamber of Commerce, believes in the ability of internships connecting students to their chosen fields of interest.
“Internships illustrate classroom relevance in the professional world,”” according to information on the program’s website. “Beneficial for both students and employers, internships offer career exploration and skills application for students, and provide employers with workers who are creative, enthusiastic, able to assist with projects and open for mentorship. Transitioning interns into full-time hires is also a proven time and cost-saving recruiting method.”
Many studies have documented the benefits of internships to students and employers. One such study by Southern Utah University focused on the benefits for high school students. Those benefits include: networking with professionals, gaining hands-on skills, having opportunities to advance into possible job offers, standing out from others who have not done an internship, defining career goals and gaining self-confidence.
The greatest benefit however, according to Brandon Street director of the university’s Career and Development Center, is experience.
“Students often dream of a particular career and cement that dream, or realize they no longer want to pursue that career through experience,” he said for a story on the university’s website about internships. “I encourage all students to participate in an internship early and often. Gain the valuable skills that accompany an internship while experiencing the realities of a job. This will make your investment in college more worthwhile.”
Internships local high school students participate in tend to last through the school year. Students can change to a different internship at the end of a semester if they find that they want to try something new, said Jasper High School senior Megan Stiles.
Her internship is focused in the ministry field. Megan is working under Miranda Crow, who heads the children’s ministry at Redemption Christian Church, where and she plans to stay put for the entire school year. She is one of three students interning with different ministers at the church for an hour and a half each weekday morning.
Although Megan, as a member of the church, has volunteered in the children’s program for years, the internship is giving her a view of all the preparation that needs to be done to make the program run smoothly.
“Miranda lets me come up with themes (for the programming). She gives me lesson plans and large-group discussion materials, to read through,” Megan says. “She allows me to have my own ideas about curriculum and share them.”
For instance, December’s theme is Undercover Christmas. Getting that program together has Megan not only reading through the discussion and classroom questions teachers will share with the kids, but also looking for and compiling materials and props needed for the theme.
“She helps lesson plan with me,” says Crow, her supervisor. “She’s going though the closets and shelves to see if we have what we need for the plan; she’s had to go to the store to get things. At the same time, we’re planning for upcoming events. And then there are the daily tasks, like setting up the rooms for classes.
“Basically, she’s learning about all there is in a job like this,” Crow says.
Megan’s focus is on children’s ministry, a calling she received in the summer prior to her junior year in high school. “I was going back and forth with teaching. But I felt in my heart that teaching wasn’t for me,” she says.
At a Christian youth conference, Megan received guidance. “I was worshipping one night,” she says, “and felt a tug in my heart from God that said go into children’s ministry.”
That has been her focus since. The internship has showed her the other, not-so-glamorous parts of the position.
“There’s a lot more behind the scenes than you realize, with all the planning and organizing,” she says. “Miranda gives me life lessons about things, like answering the many emails she receives, and planning the ministry’s budget. I’m like, ‘How can you create a budget? I don’t know what I’m going to spend tomorrow.’ But you have to figure that out.”
Darrel Land, senior minister at Redemption, has been working with a student as well, showing him the ropes of writing sermons and discussion materials for the various community groups that meet throughout the week.
“Our goal is to give interested students a teaching experience, to give them a taste of what ministry work is like,” Land says. “That benefits them, and our community. It’s our job to pour into our students.”
Having that hands-on, real-life experience is helpful, Crow said. “They teach you a bunch at school,” she says. “But until you’re in the position, you don’t fully understand that position and what it entails.”
At the same time, the students are helpful to the ministries they are working in, Land says.
“They certainly add value to our program,” he says. “I value their input and insight and the creative work they are doing.”
Seeing the background work has not deterred Megan from her goal. In fact, it is strengthening her resolve to go into children’s ministry knowing that she has experience with all parts of the program.
“I’m really enjoying this,” Megan says. “It has been very eye-opening.”