By Leslie Nicholson | Sonoma Valley Sun
Sporting their new blue Teen Services/Intern shirts, 20 high school students reported for duty at the Flowery School campus on June 14 and have been busy working in classrooms to support teachers, staff, and students for the past four weeks.
They are not only an essential part of the plan to make up for learning losses resulting from the pandemic shut-down – they are the first-ever group of paid interns to be part of the district’s summer school program.
“Not only will this benefit the younger students with social and emotional learning, but the high school students also need this connection after a year in distance learning,” says Joe Hardeman, Boys & Girls Club of Sonoma Valley vice president of program operations.
What started as a brainstorming idea at the Sonoma Educational Foundation and SVUSD, blossomed into a community-wide collaboration to include Teen Services/Sonoma Valley Boys & Girls Club.
“The Ed Foundation has raised funds to support Summer School programs for the past ten years,” explains Ed Foundation director Angela Ryan. “With COVID funds that the District had for funding Summer School, we were able to use Ed Foundation funds to start the Intern Program.”
But before the Interns set foot onto Flowery’s campus, they went through a full hiring and training process to give them real-life experience as applicants and new hires, making $15/ per hour.
“They submitted applications, interviewed, and went through all of the required fingerprinting and TB testing for SVUSD employees. They were then required to spend a week in training that included training in child development,” says Eric Gonzalez, senior director of teen programs for Teen Services/Boys & Girls Club.
Except for knowing that they would be working in the classrooms, he says, the Interns did not have specific assignments for student drop-off and pick-up time. “They jumped in and started helping with lunch distribution, crossing guard duty, and have really shown up as team players.”
“A lot of the kids were very shy and reserved at first, and now I see them running groups in the classrooms and finding their ‘voices’ with the kids. We have had great reviews about the programs from the Summer School staff and I am very excited about how we can continue this program into the next school year and summer.”
Summer School Principal Sonia Castaneda is grateful that the Intern program came together and has supported the entire elementary Summer Literacy and Math program. “The interns filled the gaps where we were in need of staffing. Initially many of the teachers had never met the Interns and no one knew what would develop as the teens moved into their new classroom roles,” Castaneda explains.
Looking beyond the summer, Hardeman sees the Intern program as something that will continue into the upcoming school year and next summer.
“We are already thinking about how we can make the interns an integral part of our Power Hour during our after school programs and expand our tutoring efforts. There are so many opportunities for small groups, one-on-one tutoring, and for kids who need extra help with focusing,” says Hardeman. “Giving these kids more real life work experiences and helping them with their career paths is such an important continuation of what we have established with this summer’s program.”