Journalism / New Haven Register

Interns get a taste of real-world workplace

By Rachael Scarborough King, Register Staff
Aug. 3, 2008

For many high school and college students, a typical summer job might be camp counselor or lifeguard for a local town.

Ashton Killilea, a recent Southern Connecticut State University graduate, has spent her summer overseeing camp counselors, lifeguards, and others as a program coordinator for the Guilford Parks and Recreation Department.

The job allows Killilea, who graduated in May, to earn the last credits needed for her recreation major, which requires students to complete 12-week internships. She interned in Guilford last summer as well, although this year, she has taken on more responsibilities.

Killilea, 22, said that the internships have afforded her real-world experience in the field she hopes to pursue. This summer, her duties include booking trips for the town’s camps, organizing special events, coordinating swim lessons and overseeing lifeguards.

“This is hands-on, you’re actually in it, you’re living it,” she said. “It’s not just a mock presentation in class.”

Guilford Parks and Recreation Director Rick Maynard said that the department has had one or two interns, usually from SCSU, almost every summer for the past decade. Former intern Tracy Guliani now works for the town as a program coordinator, and others have gone on to jobs in several Connecticut town’s recreation departments.

While a job in town government may not seem like the usual summer internship – which have become common for students looking for a foot in the door in their desired industries – towns throughout the region hire students for jobs in City Hall.

This year, Guilford Parks and Recreation hired another SCSU student, Morgan Aery, who has been overseeing the town’s camp for seventh- and eighth-graders.

Maynard said that he tries to give the interns a feel for many different aspects of working in a Parks and Recreation Department, from spending a day with maintenance workers to attending staff meetings and learning how to use the department’s registration software. Interns have also completed special projects, he said, like a history of the department that it now uses in a brochure.

“They can get a pretty broad experience because we have the parks, we have the seniors as part of us – a lot of town’s seniors are (a separate department),” Maynard said. “Our interns are not interns in our mind, they’re part of the staff just like anyone else.”

Other towns in the region employ students in recreation departments and other areas.

West Haven’s Summer Youth Employment Program provides five-week-long jobs to 118 West Haven residents. The program is open to 14- through 18-year-olds who do maintenance at the city’s schools, clerical work in City Hall, beach patrol cleanup and food preparation for local camps.

Jim Eagan, the director of the program, said that the goal is to keep kids occupied during summer, and offer them some job experience. About half of the positions are filled based on income guidelines, providing jobs for lower-income students.

“A lot of these kids are first-year employment, it’s their first experience working,” Eagan said. “The kids are taught to get to work on time, how to fill out a time sheet, how to follow directions, how to work with peers.”

Eagan added that he strives to assign participants, who work 20 hours a week, to jobs in their area of interest. This year, he said, there were more than 130 people on the waiting list for the program.

“We try to employ as many kids as we can,” he said. “Not every kid who applies gets a job, which is unfortunate, but that’s the nature of the budget.”

With her internship wrapping up in a few weeks, Killilea is now looking for a full-time job in local recreation departments. She said that her supervisors in Guilford have been very helpful in her job search.

“This is definitely what I want to do,” she said. “I like event planning and coordinating and things like that. I don’t really know where I see myself in five years, but I can probably almost say that it’s in a recreation department.”

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