Building Connections and Inspiring Careers

By Julia Gaylord, Assistant Head of School

Internship initiative projects represent both the authentic learning our students engaged with during the two weeks and how they added value to the organization.

On any given day, Field students are engaged in project-based learning, critical thinking, and collaborative problem-solving in the classroom. These past two weeks of Intersession and Internships extended this valuable learning by immersing students in almost 60 hours dedicated to the intensive study of a specific topic or 60 hours working directly with a company or organization through internships. 

The internship program has been a valued piece of the Field experience for many years. Before the pandemic, we had begun conversations on evolving the internship program to a changing work environment and more limited quality opportunities for younger students. The onset of COVID made it impossible to send all 350 students into workplaces with many companies working remotely. Sarah Swain, Dean of Innovation and Experiential Learning, helped lead a process to determine what skills we hoped students would master in this time and how to utilize this time to elicit deep learning that is different from our regular offerings. Now, middle school students choose from an array of Intersession courses, and upper school students have the choice between taking an Intersession course or designing an internship with the support of our long-time Internship Coordinator Carrie Baroody. We believe internships are most valuable for older students exploring future studies and career options. This year, we had more than 60 upper school students dispersed across the DMV, working in large corporations, small businesses, and nonprofits—learning about the organization and the various roles within the company. 

I mentored a group of students as they set out to identify organizations with whom they could work. Our students were asked to find organizations that met specific learning and engagement requirements and to ensure they had a virtual backup plan if COVID prevented an in-person model. Most importantly, they worked with their Internship hosts to design and execute an Internship initiative project. The projects represent both the authentic learning our students engaged with during the two weeks and how they added value to the organization. This shift in the focus for the final internship assessment pushed our students to consider the meaning of their work with organizations and find partnerships where they could engage in beneficial ways.

I had the privilege of visiting with several of our students, and their hosts, at their Internship locations. I asked them to share some of the benefits they saw throughout their experience. Each one shared that the immersive aspect of the experience allowed for relevant and meaningful learning to happen beginning on day one. I spoke with Evan '24, who was working with Dr. Patrik Mufarrij, the Chief of the Urology Department at Sibley Hospital. Evan said, "I've learned more about myself; I've peeked into the future and saw myself devoting my life to helping others, and I see myself in a medical career--always adapting and learning. I now know that with any career I choose, I want to let my compassionate and inquisitive nature take charge." Evan applied the knowledge from his internship and his passion for helping people to design brochures with post-operative care instructions for Dr. Mufarrij's most common surgeries. 

When I spoke with the Internship host working with Seneca '25 and Sydney '25, CEO and Co-Founder at InnerView Education Elie Goldman, he remarked on the benefits of engaging high school students with his organization. Our students were able to partake in company meetings, where they presented their learning and logo design concepts to Elie's colleagues. This opportunity allowed for real-time feedback on their digital art and marketing plans.

Guiding and mentoring our students towards internship opportunities that allow them to explore passions and contribute to area organizations in meaningful ways reminded me of why the Intersession and Internship program is a wonderful part of a Field School education. Most notable was hearing from students that they will continue working with their partner organizations beyond the dedicated two-week period. They also discovered or deepened a personal passion and have left their organizations with meaningful work products. This realization and confirmation make the efforts of pulling off these programs worthwhile. One of our students' hosts said it best when he told me that our student was "... leaving this place better than he found it. I can certainly promise you that." 

Stay tuned as Dean of Innovation and Experiential Learning Sarah Swain provides insights from the incredible work of our students and faculty during Intersession in a blog post later in March.