Learning on the job

July 29, 2011

By ASHLEY JACKSON - Bulletin Staff Writer

New College Institute’s (NCI) summer internship program is in its fifth year of helping local college students learn about the benefits of making connections in the work force.

The purpose of the program, which includes 28 interns this year, is to “encourage these young professionals to come back here to live, work and play and come make a difference in their home community,” said Katie Croft, internship coordinator at NCI.

Intern TraVon DeJarnette, who has worked at the Virginia Museum of Natural History, is pursuing an associate degree in general studies with a visual arts specialization at Patrick Henry Community College. He plans to transfer to Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond in the spring to major in communication arts, he said.

As part of his internship, DeJarnette gained experience in creating art and scientific visualizations for exhibits at the museum as well as logos and murals for the museum, he said.

“He has created professional quality logos. ... We have been super pleased with him,” said Melody Cartwright, senior graphic designer at the museum.

The internship experience “will look good on a résumé and give him a step up,” Cartwright said.

DeJarnette added that the NCI internship program “gives you the practical experience.”

Intern Mandy Jones has worked in the Henry County Public Schools human resources office. She is a rising senior at Liberty University in Lynchburg, where she is majoring in business management with a concentration in human resources.

“I’m doing a little bit of everything here — from filing, working with retirees and gathering information for new hires,” Jones said.

“This program has made me realize that there are job opportunities in the area. You just have to look for them,” she said, adding that the program has influenced her to want to stay in the area after she graduates from college.

“It’s a great opportunity to get to work with people in the county. ... The more connections you have, the better chance of getting a job, and it’s extra experience in my major,” Jones said.

“I really enjoy it, and I love the people I work with,” she added.

“There is a lot of success in our program,” Croft said.

One of the success stories is that of Sarah Beth Keyser, who is the coordinator of grant development at PHCC.

Keyser, who attended Davidson College near Charlotte, N.C., was part of the NCI internship program during the summers of 2008 and 2009. She interned with the Martinsville Henry County Coalition for Health and Wellness both summers, she said.

This February, she landed the job at PHCC, and she credits the internship program with giving her the right connections to get the job.

“The work experience was crucial to getting a job, and it built up my résumé,” Keyser said.

“The program opened up my eyes to the working world. ... I realized opportunities that I didn’t know existed,” she said. “It’s (the program is) a great way to network in your hometown.”

Aside from the work experience, the interns also have participated in volunteer activities and attended events in the community, Croft said.

“We want them to be more engaged in the community,” she said, adding that the interns have volunteered with the SPCA, the American Cancer Society and other local nonprofits.

Jones said that she and the other interns volunteered at a Martinsville Mustangs game and took part in a tour of Martinsville and Henry County.

Both Jones and DeJarnette said that they went to places on the tour that they didn’t know existed in the area. Another event that was especially eye-opening for DeJarnette was a “Make It Happen” event at the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research in Danville in which two Ohio men, Mark Rembert and Taylor Stuckert, spoke about how they worked to revitalize their hometown.

DeJarnette said he would like to come back and work in the Henry County-Martinsville area to possibly make a difference as well.

“I like living around here, and I’m definitely coming back here,” he said.

As part of the program, the interns are responsible for working a total of 320 hours, volunteering for 15 hours and attending workshops that teach job and networking skills and community events, according to Croft.

Each intern receives a total of $4,000 during the course of the summer. Their salaries are funded by their employers, the New College Foundation and The Harvest Foundation, according to Croft.

The internship program officially ended with a luncheon Thursday but some of the interns are continuing on their jobs for a while.


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