HIP seniors left school before it was cool

Highlander Internship Program concludes after two weeks

Board hoard - After interning at a range of locations for two weeks, over 200 seniors present their HIP projects on June 1 in the lower gym. (Photo courtesy of Greg Olcott)

Board hoard - After interning at a range of locations for two weeks, over 200 seniors present their HIP projects on June 1 in the lower gym. (Photo courtesy of Greg Olcott)

Maria McHugo, News Editor

On June 1, the lower gym was flooded with the boards and posters of over 200 McLean seniors sharing their experience of the Highlander Internship Program (HIP). First instituted during the 2016-17 school year, HIP provides students with an opportunity to pursue an internship for two weeks rather than participating in finals at the end of their senior year.

Beginning on May 21, HIP students chose to participate in a range of career opportunities from the comfort of personal cubicles to the curiosity of operating rooms and department meetings. Senior Maddy Anderson was able to shadow a radiation oncologist at Georgetown University Hospital.

Radiation station – Senior Maddy Anderson poses in front of a CyberKnife technological radiation machine at Georgetown University Hospital. Anderson shadowed a radiation oncologist at the Hospital during HIP. (Photo courtesy of Maddy Anderson)

“Not only was it a really fun experience, but I also was able to learn so much about what it’s like to be a physician and the amount of work and education that goes into it,” Anderson said. “I was able to go see patients and view their scans or treatment options. I was even able to design a radiation treatment plan for a patient who had 7 metastases in his brain [and I] also was given the opportunity to scrub in and watch procedures, which was really cool.”

The ability to explore potential career fields was exceedingly rewarding for this year’s group of seniors. Although some participated in areas that may not have matched their particular interests, HIP enabled students to encounter the realities and dynamics of employment.

“I worked at a company that processes payments for schools called Diamond Mind,” senior Calvin Zug said. “I gathered a lot of information on schools regarding their enrollment and annual revenue. While this seemed boring at first, I was shadowing a sales representative and for part of the day he was emailing the schools I got information on [in order] to sell to them. This showed me that my work actually had an impact.”

Senior Cayla Davis, who interned at the Distributive Education Clubs of America (DECA) headquarters in Reston, VA, supports the educational benefit of HIP beyond the mere advantage of job experience.

“I learned how to improve my collaboration and communication skills because I was working with two other interns. Additionally, I learned small things like certain state abbreviations, how to lock a chest and [how to] assemble cardboard boxes,” Davis said.

Some internships even allowed seniors to understand the challenges of teachers, thus causing them to better comprehend their role as students. Senior Laith Samamreh had the opportunity to work alongside the coordinator of the theater department at Longfellow Middle School.

“[I learned that] teaching is very, very difficult and at times you need to set your foot down to establish a respect boundary between [yourself and] those you are supervising,” Samamreh said. “If kids aren’t getting the lesson or concept, you need to try different strategies for different students because you can’t give up. Whether that’s visually or by re-explaining yourself, you need to mix it up to reach your whole audience.”

Seeing the impact of the program on both former and current seniors, many juniors are excited to pursue HIP in the coming year.

“[HIP] is beneficial because it gives students the experience of working a real job and helps them gain more insight as to what career path they actually want to choose,” junior Maggie Laird said.

Coming full circle – Seniors Natalie Ruffner, Tommy Schilder and Cayla Davis (from left to right) relish their experience from the lobby of the DECA headquarters in Reston, VA. The group decided to intern here after participating in the DECA club throughout each of their high school careers. (Photo courtesy of Cayla Davis)

Nonetheless, while most HIP participants seem to favor the pursuit of an internship over participation in finals week, junior Zoe Skoric is unconvinced by the benefits of early career experience.

“I will not be [participating in HIP],” Skoric said. “I think the stuff that the [companies and employers] end up making you do is irrelevant to the actual career goal, like re-organizing books or getting coffee and sorting paper.”

Current seniors such as Anderson, however, affirm the value of HIP concerning its affiliations with career exploration and general life experience.

“Almost all of [the patients] had severely life-threatening diseases or cancers that needed to be treated, and it was inspiring to watch the team of doctors at Georgetown all come together to decide what course of action to take in order to provide the best possible care for the patient,” Anderson said. “It really had a positive impact on me and made me even more certain that I want to go into the medical field.”

In recognition of the program’s relative success over the last two years, current seniors encourage the upcoming Class of 2019 to participate in the Highlander Internship Program.

“I definitely recommend HIP to all rising seniors,” Anderson said. “It was an amazing experience and I’m really glad I was able to take part in an internship, especially since I was exempt from finals and the last month of school.”