School-to-Work Program

On top of their typical course work, many high school students balance extracurricular activities like athletics, music, or a part-time job. This year at ChildServe, ten high school interns also added experience in nursing, therapy, business, human resources, and communications to their areas of study.

ChildServe recently partnered with the school-to-work programs at Waukee and Johnston public high schools for the ‘16-17 school year. Through this program, high school interns are gaining professional experience during the school day at ChildServe’s Johnston location. The high school interns gain 10-15 hours of experience and mentorship each week.

Jay Winger, Director of Human Resources at ChildServe, saw the benefits of the school-to-work program first hand when his son participated in the program last year.

“After seeing how much my son grew at his internship through a Des Moines realty company, I thought, ‘We need to do this at ChildServe’. It’s a great opportunity for us to be a partner in our community, and it’s a great opportunity for the kids,” said Winger.

Initially, ChildServe considered hiring four interns, but that number jumped to ten when both Johnston and Waukee high schools requested a partnership. To be hired for an internship, the high school students had to prepare for a formal interview just like they will in future employment scenarios.

“Part of seeking employment includes presenting yourself well, preparing for the interview questions, researching the company, dressing appropriately, and having an up-to-date resume. All of the interns did very well. They even came prepared with questions about their potential positions and about ChildServe,” said Winger.

When designing ChildServe’s internships, it was important to Winger that ChildServe offer valuable experience that students can use on a resume and that will help them determine what careers might fit them best.

“One of our goals was to provide the students with experience they don’t typically get until after college. We’re putting them into a professional work environment and expecting them to operate at the same level as other staff… having that experience is unbelievable. It’s been fun to see kids engaged, interested in learning, and happy to be here.”

Maddie, from Johnston, and Madeline, from Waukee, are two ChildServe interns with big career goals. They see the school-to-work program as a valuable way to experience a professional environment earlier than most young people. After going through a formal interview at ChildServe, Maddie began working in the Outpatient Therapy program, while Madeline interns with the Human Resources staff.

Meet Maddie:

Maddie, a senior and Johnston High School, looked into ChildServe because of her interest in occupational therapy.

“In the future I would really like to work with children as a therapist, possibly at a school, a hospital, or somewhere like ChildServe. It will help me be successful in interviews to share that I have firsthand experience on the “behind-the-scenes” of therapy sessions like paperwork and confidentiality.”

Maddie also shadowed several therapists working with children who have different needs and abilities.

“I’ve seen students learning how to tie their shoes, or work on different sensory skills like pulling things apart. Another child I got to shadow was learning how to brush teeth and cut food, so it is helpful to see the different things that therapists do to help improve these skills.”

Maddie noted that one of the most difficult part about her internship is the emotional aspect of seeing the children and learning about the challenges they face. Her favorite part of the ChildServe internship so far is getting to know her coworkers.

“I enjoy working with all the coworkers here; they’re nice people. Since I’m interested in Occupational Therapy, I’ve had several therapists share with me about where they went to school for their degrees. It’s helping me consider my options for the future,” said Maddie.

Meet Madeline:

Madeline, a senior at Waukee High School, began the school-to-work program because she wanted to push herself during an otherwise academically light school year (she had earned enough credits to graduate last year). Students at Waukee completed a preparation course at school before internships began in early November.

“Before we interviewed at various places, we spent a lot of time at school making resumes and portfolios, practicing our interview skills, and creating LinkedIn profiles. I felt very comfortable throughout the interview process because of what I had learned at school.”

As an intern for ChildServe’s Human Resources department, Madeline organizes and manages hardcopy and electronic employee files, and joins in on planning meetings for various events and the wellness committee.

“I could tell even in the interview that ChildServe would be a great place to work,” said Madeline. “It was challenging to jump into an organization’s meetings and start to learn about a project they have been working for months. It gave me the chance to learn a lot about HR and the phrasing they use. It felt like I dove in, and got to learn how to swim.”

Madeline’s desire to build a real estate development company drives her interest in learning about all areas of operating a business. She believes the HR internship at ChildServe is exposing her to important aspects of owning a business.

“I would recommend school-to-work to everyone – I had such a good experience with the instructors at Waukee and here at ChildServe.” said Madeline. “I think it gives me an advantage to go into college with “ChildServe Intern” on my resume, instead of just any job that isn’t related to my goals.”