From Campus to Career: MICDS Seniors Flourish in Two-Week Winter Internships

To prepare our soon-to-be-graduates for life beyond the MICDS campus walls, Winter Term 2024 offered a profound opportunity for seniors. All members of the Class of 2024 pursued meaningful and immersive service and leadership internships and opportunities to round out their educational arc and provide exposure to the working world.

The process began in the second semester of junior year when students identified opportunities for work and service, including school-sponsored global travel and on-the-job training. By the fall of their senior year, they had explored their possibilities and created a proposal to be reviewed and approved by the School for their winter adventures. Students were tasked with choosing unique and new experiences, as working for a family business or shadowing a family member at their job was not permitted, and any service-related endeavor was outside the scope of their community service graduation requirement. Throughout the process, students were encouraged to reflect on their interests and find an experience that would offer enrichment to themselves and those they would engage with daily during the term.

Erin Hamill, Director of Global Learning & Upper School Community Service, said, “When Winter Term was in its initial planning stages, the thought of the entire class of seniors finding a senior experience was daunting. Would organizations be willing to take them on for two weeks? Would our students face competition with other St. Louis high school students looking for similar experiences at the same time? Happily, most students found a great fit on their own. With the assistance of alumni, current parents, and organization contacts, we were able to help connect the remainder of the students with opportunities.”

Students were fully responsible for researching the company or service opportunity, making initial contact, and continuing the dialogue of logistics and details before their first day of work or service. Vitally important for the senior Winter Term experience was for students to live the mission: How will this experience help embrace people with compassion? How will this experience help with confidence and responsibility? How do we meet new challenges? How will this experience help foster virtue?

After winter break, students embarked on internships, job shadowing, and volunteer opportunities that helped them grow in maturity by working in unfamiliar and challenging situations and encouraging them to see the value of engaging in a life of purpose and service. These full-day experiences included a required daily reflection exercise and, at a later date, a presentation to peers and faculty.

Student work experiences included, among others, working for media companies, hospitals and healthcare organizations, artists and art galleries, fashion design companies, local entrepreneurs, architectural, marketing, and engineering firms, local fire/EMS services, dog training services, and local and state government agencies. Even a few MICDS alumni and parents opened their office doors to our students for this endeavor. Hamill shared, “Feedback from the hosting organizations was also overwhelmingly positive, with many indicating they’d be willing to host future seniors and are excited about this opportunity for our seniors.”

Service endeavors included students serving organizations such as, but not limited to, KidSmart, the Chess Hall of Fame, the Humane Society, local schools, and even a cemetery. Additionally, several students went on school-sponsored trips to South Africa and Spain or joined the Domestic Network Exchange.

Evan Levy ’05, Chief Revenue Officer for zPods, a company that provides unique sleep solutions, hosted Saketh Byrapuneni ’24 as an intern. Levy said, “In the zPods environment, we foster creativity that brings about a real-world understanding of what it’s like when you have to produce results to support yourself. And no one is there to catch you but you alone. We were excited to share this experience with MICDS students so they can be more prepared for entering the real world. Saketh was taught all aspects of building a business from scratch and learned all of our strategies and philosophies of sales, marketing, customer service, product development, LinkedIn career development, and smart spending.”

Sarah Leander ’11, owner of Fantastic Canines LLC, hosted Liam McCarthy ‘24 as an intern. “Being able to host a senior for their Winter Term gave me an opportunity to give back to MICDS in a more personal way. It brought back great memories of doing my Senior Project. My goal was to provide a fun, enriching, and honest experience, regardless if the student decided to pursue a career in the animal field. Liam had an interest in becoming a veterinarian, so he got to learn what it was like owning a business dealing with animals. We offer board and train where the dogs stay with us while they’re training, so he got to learn animal husbandry and animal behavior—which was translated through training and also got to observe how we handled new and current clients during lessons and evaluations.

We ended his experience by going to his home and helping him work with his own dog, Piper, an adorable and lovely chocolate lab. Liam had expressed that he was having difficulty getting her to perform a down, and within 5-10 minutes of coaching, Liam got to experience first-hand with his own dog how fast a dog can progress with the right skill and practice,” she said.

Alaina Maciá P’24, Chief Executive Officer of MTM, Inc., a company that provides high-quality non-emergency medical transportation services, reflected on her experience as a mentor to a student intern. “I enjoy mentoring students because I have been mentored throughout my career, and it was so helpful that I need to pay it forward. I hosted Fabiola Theodoro ’24 at MTM, where she shadowed me and my executive team. She attended meetings and surveyed the team for a SWOT analysis of the company. At the end of the term, Fabi presented her SWOT analysis to the team. She was well prepared, presented well, injected humor, and nailed it.”

I think it’s essential to host high school students so they can see how their potential field of study operates in the real world. Picking a major without exposure to the working world can be intimidating – are you picking the right path, etc. – and this experience can help inform them. I look forward to hosting more MICDS students in the future,” she said.

In addition to serving as a mentor, Maciá witnessed her daughter, Arianna Maciá ’24, embark on her own internship with the Kemper Art Museum at Washington University. “Winter Term was helpful for my daughter to learn her potential field of study, interact with professionals, and be in a working environment. As parents, we can only tell our children so much, so it’s helpful for them to be exposed to opportunities outside their daily lives,” she said.

Hamill shared, “Now that our inaugural Winter Term Senior Experience is behind us, we are thrilled to read in the survey feedback from seniors the number who indicated they found the experience meaningful. Students reported improved communication, hard work, negotiation, people, and organizational skills and gained confidence, humility, empathy, patience, and independence. Many added they enjoyed the opportunity to explore potential career paths and areas of study upon leaving MICDS.”

A few students, the greatest beneficiaries of this endeavor, shared their reflections below.

“I shadowed at the Missouri chapter of the Sierra Club, a nationwide environmental rights organization focusing on government advocacy and getting people outdoors. My favorite part was going to Jefferson City to sit in on committee hearings and meet with state senators and representatives to discuss water rights in Missouri. My biggest takeaway was that we have more power as constituents in our local government than we think, and advocating for our interests and community is how change gets made. My advice for juniors next year is to find an internship or opportunity that deals with an issue or topic they’re passionate about. For me, finding an opportunity to be involved in grassroots organizing and environmental policy was something that I will never forget and made these two weeks so crucial.” – Agatha Curylo ’24

“I had a very hands-on experience during my senior internship at a local fashion company, and it provided invaluable insights into both the design and business aspects of the industry. What I valued most was the opportunity to ask questions and engage with the experienced women at the company, learning about their career paths and the intricacies of running a business.

I gained a profound understanding of the complex production process of garments, realizing that it involves more work than one might initially think. Challenges were inevitable, such as handling orders sewed incorrectly or shirts requiring last-minute buttonholes on tight deadlines. Yet, we worked together as a team to overcome these obstacles. Overall, my senior internship not only equipped me with practical skills but also affirmed my passion for pursuing a future in fashion.” – Mia Krieger ’24

Other students said, “It helped solidify my career choice. I am now more independent and confident in my people abilities. I learned how to perform well in stressful situations and stay calm during emergencies. I’ve come out of it a kinder, more understanding person. I learned perseverance and professional dialogue/conversations. I valued the independence of this experience, and I felt immersed in the work routine.”

Hamill reflected, “Overall, we are happy with the outcome of our inaugural Senior Experience and look forward to using what we learned and the organizational connections we and current seniors made this year to help improve the program for our future graduates.”