Angelica Rivera, Class of 2021, began her undergraduate experience at Merrimack College with the determination to elevate her career potential. Although Rivera always knew elementary education suited her career interests, she nevertheless sought an opportunity that would allow her to receive hands-on experience in a classroom setting and fully comprehend the realities of a career in education. As she progressed throughout the 2019 academic year, Rivera consulted the resources at the O’Brien Center for Career Development to discover the various opportunities both on- and off-campus that would allow her to make the most of her career development.
During her sophomore year, Rivera discovered the Paid Internship Program at Merrimack, a recently implemented endowment that allows students to grow their professional skill sets and further advance the development of their career through paid internship positions in industries that otherwise offer unpaid experiential learning opportunities. Through the program, Rivera found an experience she desired to further develop her skills and receive vital experience in the field of education with her placement at Groundwork Lawrence and the Lawrence Boys and Girls Club as an Education Intern for the Summer of 2019.
As an Education Intern for the Lawrence Boys and Girls Club, Rivera gained essential skills in both the administrative and hands-on aspects of working in the field of elementary education. Rivera’s position provided her with the opportunity to diversify her skillset and variegate her experience to understand the preparation and implementation of educating students effectively. Rivera co-taught classes for a portion of the week, and worked in an office setting for the remainder of the week to overlook lesson plans and prepare research presentations to present to her team.
As Rivera began to learn about the inner workings of a career in elementary education through her administrative and teaching responsibilities, she additionally developed an understanding of the challenges that often arise in a position as an educator. She recalls a challenge to maintain her own focus and the attention of a class in the event of a disruption, and reflects that, “the most challenging part [of any position is] expecting the unexpected.” Rivera notes one of her most valued takeaways of her experience as learning that proper preparation for any position requires the ability to plan ahead of time; both for the expectation for the completion of a task, as well as having back-up plans in the event that the ideal plan goes awry. She states, “in general, everyone comes ready with a schedule or a plan to their jobs to routinely stick by them; however, the reality is that if an unexpected circumstance appears, you have to be willing to make a change of plans and adapt to any situation.”
Rivera’s internship with the Lawrence Boys and Girls Club further prompted the growth of her personal and professional development in her work ethic. Though she certainly demonstrated immense diligence and assiduity throughout her academic endeavors, Rivera understood the importance of translating conscientiousness into her professional positions as well. Rivera gained insight into the responsibilities of the working world that differ from those in academia, and strengthened her skills in time management, communication, and initiative. “My internship experience contributed to my personal learning objectives [by] teaching me about work ethics, [and] my professional learning by showing me how to manage a group of students,” Rivera conveys. “This opportunity showed me what having a job feels like, and the responsibility of getting to the job early, [arriving] prepared and ready to work with different people for a common goal.” Rivera further developed an understanding of the various tasks and challenges educators must manage in order to perform well in their positions. “[My internship] also gave me an overview of what lesson planning looks like and how to get supplies on time before class, [as well as the] different learning styles students have,” Rivera observes. “I was able to work through the daily functions and activities of the position, just like an elementary school teacher would.”
Beyond the development of indispensable professional and educational skills, Rivera’s experience as an Education Intern with the Lawrence Boys and Girls Club enabled her to validate her decision to pursue a career in the field of education. Rivera realized just how much she enjoyed educating elementary students and witnessing their academic progression, and began to recognize the impact she could make upon her community as an educator. “The most rewarding aspect of my internship was seeing how excited students were after the class,” Rivera recalls. “Seeing the smile on their faces to me was [incredibly] rewarding, as well as [being able to see the students] gain confidence and see them come out of their shells when it came to participation and learning. Being able to work with students who the majority are from high-need communities made me realize that becoming a teacher in this area can make a positive difference in the community I was raised in.” After her experience with her students in the Lawrence Boys and Girls Club, Rivera felt absolutely certain she made the right decision in the development of her career, and became even more passionate about making a difference in children’s education. “I feel that the internship positively impacted my decision to keep moving forward with my future career path,” Rivera states. “I have had many opportunities to apply skills and knowledge I have learned in the classroom to my internship job and have seen the positive results, [which has] affirmed my decision to become an elementary school teacher in my local neighborhood.”
Rivera further urges students to consider the Paid Internship Program to explore their own career development and cultivate the skills and connections necessary to succeed in their chosen career path. She encourages students, “give [the Paid Internship Program] a try, and you’ll be surprised at how many people, skills, and stories you’ll meet along the way.” She maintains that the internship she acquired through the program allowed her to gain versatility in her professional skillset and deepen her understanding of the career she planned to pursue upon her graduation. She recommends students take advantage of the benefits offered by the program to, “gain professional and career skills you wouldn’t necessarily be able gain if don’t try it out.”
Experiential learning opportunities present students with the chance to enhance their professional skills and broaden their understanding of a chosen career path in a manner that best prepares them for the realities of the working world. As apparent through Rivera’s experience with the Paid Internship Program and the Lawrence Boys and Girls Club, internships often serve as a pivotal point in a student’s undergraduate career in assisting their professional growth and confidence in their ability to succeed in their career aspirations. The opportunities to activate your personal and professional development exist all around you; simply take advantage of the resources available to you on- and off-campus to advance your career. Log onto Handshake, view Merrimack’s featured jobs and internships, and consider the Paid Internship Program to begin the transition of your career development to your career success!
Written By: Kerry Reynolds, Class of 2021