Martinsville Bulletin, by Amie Pickerall
MARTINSVILLE — The New College Institute in Martinsville welcomed college students as interns over the summer. The interns not only received on-the-job training, but also worked in fields they enjoyed.
The internship opportunity surprised Tajuana Carter, a rising junior at Virginia Commonwealth University.
"Before the internship, I didn’t want to come back to Martinsville after graduating because I didn’t think any jobs were available. Now, I see there are opportunities for growth right here in the community," Carter said.
Interning in both the human resources and IT departments at Hooker Furniture, Carter learned the ins and outs of her job before earning her degree. She is pursuing a degree in computer science with a concentration in information systems and technology.
"The thing I enjoy most is the people that I work with because they are friendly but they have also given me good career advice. They have also given me knowledge from their experiences about what is upcoming in the field, such as cyber security. This has helped me know what to expect when I graduate and enter the workforce," Carter said.
James Madison University marketing major Dyer Pace tested his career choice over the summer.
"While I am a marketing major, I wasn’t very passionate about some of my classes this past year," Pace said. "I wanted to confirm that marketing would be a career that I would comfortable pursuing."
Pace’s favorite experience took place when the cardio department approached Pace with a unique opportunity. They needed help determining the time it took to fly a patient to another local hospital, as well as training for the administration of patient care.
"They needed a mock patient, so I volunteered to ride in the helicopter to Danville to participate in the drill. It made me feel good because I know this drill that I participated in will help the hospitals provide more efficient care. In addition, I was able to take pictures and document the experience from a marketing perspective to help our communities know about the quality of service provided," Pace said.
When Pace told his college friends about his summer experiences, he said they were "all amazed that our community and NCI created this opportunity. Many can’t believe that it is a paid internship and that employers are so willing to support college students from the area. They all think this is a really cool opportunity and they are actually a little jealous."
Chanlee Luu, a rising senior at the University of Virginia, said that she interned with Eastman for three major reasons: career readiness, the company’s sustainability and community engagement efforts and "I don’t have to pay rent and I get to eat my mom’s home cooked Vietnamese food." Luu is pursuing a degree in chemical engineering major with a minor in global sustainability.
Luu spoke about the difficulties she faced while on the job.
"Since I’m in quality control this year, I’ve been looking at film for defects, which is a skill that takes time to master. Mostly, I’ve been working on calibrating a system to objectively grade a piece of film for a defect called Orange Peel Distortion. This has been a challenging process because there are several variables, so it’s difficult to isolate what the exact problem is," Luu said.
However, Luu feels that the internship opportunity has better prepared her for real-world situations.
"In class, we learn fundamental concepts and do lots of problem sets. Aside from our lab classes, it’s difficult to see how it all applies in a practical setting," Luu said.
Luu hopes to incorporate knowledge she gleaned from her internship into her upcoming senior thesis.
Haley Ferguson, a rising junior at Virginia Commonwealth University, interned with the YMCA over the summer. She is a double major in art education and craft and material studies.
"Before confirming my decision to pursue art education as my major, I wanted to see what it was like to prepare lesson plans and work hands-on with the kids," Ferguson said. "In the beginning, I thought that I may want to work with elementary aged children, but I now realize that I want to focus on older students so that I can teach more advanced material."
Although creating lesson plans in a limited amount of time presented difficulties, Ferguson said the end result was worth her hard work.
"I love coming in each morning and having the kids greet me and give me hugs. I also enjoy the people that I work with. With this internship, I come to work every day and have fun," Ferguson said.
Autumn Morris, director of communications and marketing at NCI, spoke positively about summer internships through the institute.
"I think this shows the progressive nature of the program and the exceptional opportunity that it creates for local students and local employers," Morris said.
The internships not only help students; they also help the Martinsville-Henry County area.
"You often hear negative things about the community, but there is great potential out there for college graduates. People assume bigger cities have more opportunities. But in a small community like ours, the opportunities are there, you just have to go out and find them," Carter said.