by Brent Baker, Peoria Pathways Coordinator
Through the Peoria Pathways to Prosperity program we are creating internships for high school students. That may seem like a daunting task, but lucky for us we have a number of employers in Greater Peoria that are up for the challenge. We have already placed nine interns at six companies!
Bump Boxes co-founders Christine and Lee Deehring are familiar with thinking outside the box at their quickly growing e-commerce startup company, which may begin to explain their eagerness to join the program. They created internship opportunities for high school students Nala Davis, Keshonna Bommon, and Noah Slater.
These three interns work around eight hours per week supporting the Bump Boxes full-time staff. They help coordinate, fulfill, and deliver thousands of packages during the busy holiday season.
“It’s been a great experience,” said Christine. “The students are dependable, hard-working, and ask questions when they need to. They’re regular self-starters.”
These are fundamental skills for any career, but are even more critical at an early stage start-up company like Bump Boxes. Christine and Lee laughed as they reflected on the interns’ first day of work on Cyber Monday, the company’s busiest day of the year.
“When they arrived, all of our staff was running around crazy in the warehouse organizing and moving inventory,” said Christine.
“We were pretty sure none of the interns were going to come back for their second day,” said Lee. “So when they all said ‘Yes!’ we were pretty relieved.”
They said the internship program is a practical investment for their company as it allows them to identify potential future employees.
“Every one of our staff has started in the warehouse and been promoted,” said Lee. “There’s definitely potential for an ongoing relationship if students are interested.”
This internship also provides the students with a behind-the-scenes look at logistics, e-commerce, and entrepreneurship.
“I wish I would have known starting my own business was an option when I was in high school. I would have done it so much sooner!” said Christine. “It’s great to be able to expose students to the startup environment and share the lessons we’ve learned.”
For students interested in human services and child development, Easter Seals of Central Illinois has stepped up to create internships for two students, Rose Stroud and Annasia Abner, to explore the depth and breadth of the careers they offer.
“Once I met these two young ladies I had no doubt that they would be great,” said Marybeth Arduini, a supervisor of the interns at Easter Seals.
Another supervisor, Lynda Sharp-Lower, said they are working to introduce Rose and Annasia to experiences that are relevant to their long-term career goals, and they’ve wasted no time in the three weeks the high schoolers have been employed. The interns have already assisted Easter Seals staff with creating and distributing marketing materials, observed speech and occupational therapy sessions, and even participated in children’s therapeutic yoga classes.
“I was interested in a career in social work, but didn’t really know if it was right for me, that’s actually the reason I applied for this internship,” said Rose. “Now I definitely know I want to pursue a career working with children.”
“The hands-on experiences are great,” said Annasia. “I’ve been able sit in on speech therapy classes and help children learn new words. I love it so much!”
“We can’t say enough great things about these two,” said Marybeth. “They come in and are willing to do whatever they can to help and are always excited for new opportunities.” said Marybeth.
The supervisors are also planning to have the interns work on a new family resource guide, attend client home visits, and shadow clinicians.
This is the real value of these student internships: providing students a hands-on experience with careers they’re interested in, while building relationships with established professionals.
“This is my third job, but this experience at Easter Seals has made me more aware of the career I want to pursue.” said Annasia.
“The staff at Easter Seals are amazing! They’re all so kind and happy, it’s like they’re glowing, and there’s always children laughing in the building. It’s pretty great,” said Rose.
This is just the beginning. Through our Peoria Pathways to Prosperity work, we have more internships coming online next semester. Over the coming months we’ll be highlighting all the opportunities that Greater Peoria’s employers are creating for students.