“I wouldn’t have been ready to study engineering without knowing how machines work,” she said.
Renee was one of seven Mt. Hope students who were chosen to participate in a pilot internship program this spring, assembled by the East Bay Chamber of Commerce, local business owners and the Bristol-Warren Regional School District. The students gave a presentation on their progress to program participants on Wednesday, June 1, at the high school.
“Things went really well. I felt like year one was a solid year,” said Wayne Lima, head of the STEM Department at Mt. Hope. “Our big picture goal is to not be just a small sampling of the population, but to grow to as many students.”
Planning for the program took about a year, said Dr. Mario Andrade, superintendent of the Bristol-Warren Regional School District. Many meetings were held between the school administration and the business owners, and between the administration and the students, to fully form a mutually beneficial internship program. Businesses that participated included Tri-Mack Plastics, Jade Engineered Plastics, East Bay Manufacturing, and WaterRower.
The students started their internships this past February in areas such as engineering machining and marketing; and finishing up the first week of June. Time spent at each site varied, averaging about four hours each week after school.
“I can remember back when I was in school that at an internship you were filing papers, or sweeping the floors,” Dr. Andrade said. “We wanted this to be much than that.”
“This (program) takes the theory they learn in school and makes it understandable in practical applications,” said Don Rebello, Mt. Hope High School principal.
That rang true for senior Nick Silva, who went to work for Jade Engineered Plastics. As he told the audience, his course schedule shifted “unexpectedly” and he found himself taking an advanced graphing course at the high school.
“I had no previous knowledge about graphing at all,” Nick said. “But working at Jade helped a lot. I got more experience and time to practice so I could better grasp the concepts in class. It wasn’t just the one or two hours at school.”
Teagan Jones learned how to start a business from the ground up.
“When I first toured East Bay Manufacturing, I was told that there are endless opportunities in manufacturing, and that really resonated with me,” Teagan said. “I learned so much – not just marketing, but how to communicate with different people.”
Teagan helped found Goods4Good, an online shopping cart that sells locally made goods, and donating 100-percent of the profits to charity.
“These students are learning things we can’t simulate in a classroom, like how to start and run a business,” Mr. Lima said. “(This program) can actually make that happen. It’s what the whole internship program is about.”
Feedback given by the students and business owners will help not only shape the future of the program, but course offerings at the high school. Senior Dan Brogran stressed the importance of teaching more about Microsoft Excel, as it was an integral part of his internship at Tri-Mack Plastics.
“It was really important and a huge part of the process at TriMack,” he said.
Not only did the students gain valuable experience, but the businesses did as well. Dan McDonough set up Google Analytics for Tri-Mack’s website, which “taught them a lot about their website they didn’t know,” said Marcie Williams, human resources administrator at Tri-Mack.
“Renee helped us find ways to be more efficient and reduce waste,” said Adam Benoit, an engineer at WaterRower. “And when you’re producing 300 machines a day, that’s important.”
Dr. Andrade is hopeful to grow the program for the upcoming school year, expanding the number of participating businesses, and to also allow for the students to work during school hours.
“Learning goes on 24-7,” he said. “We want to design a high school to expand the students learning opportunities. This is really a community effort, a community program.”