The inaugural group of Summer Highlands Internship Program (SHIP) participants gained some hands-on experience in Randolph County businesses and now has hopes of giving back to the community by creating a concept for a social services fair.
A partnership between Davis & Elkins College and the Elkins-Randolph County Chamber (ERCC), SHIP pairs local businesses with D&E students and Randolph County residents who attend other colleges. The project is fueled by a $25,000 grant from the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation. The paid internship program focuses on the overall goal of enticing college students to start their professional careers in Randolph County after graduation.
“We very much appreciate the partnerships with local businesses who provided internships for our first year of SHIP,” said ERCC Executive Director and D&E First Lady Lisa Wood. “We hope to grow the program in the future and increase the impact in the Randolph County community.”
Students and their internship hosts were: Susan Riggleman, an education major at Geneva College, Elkins Christian Academy; Hailee Whitehair, a nursing major at D&E, Elkins Christian Academy; Jiwh Santos, a sport management and hospitality and tourism management major at D&E, Elkins Main Street and Elkins-Randolph County Chamber; Amanda Cummins, a criminology major at D&E, Randolph County Probation Office; Kristen Nestor, a criminology major at D&E, Randolph County Probation Office; Greyson Howell, an exercise science major at D&E, Elkins Rehabilitation & Care Center; Jack Harlen-Robertson, a management major at D&E, Randolph County Housing Authority; and John Fregonara, a sport and exercise psychology major at West Virginia University, Anytime Fitness.
“Having young people work with our local employers really adds to what we inspire to do to create a vibrant community in Randolph County,” said D&E Director of Career Services Chris Jones. “This gave the students an opportunity to learn not only about the businesses where they worked, but about the community.”
Students agreed that the work experience helped guide their decisions for future study and career plans, while working with clients and colleagues enhanced their people skills.
“I really wanted to take on this internship to see if this would be the career I want for the rest of my life,” said Howell, who hopes to continue his studies toward becoming a physical therapist. “Now I know this is what I want to do.”
Cummins, who is beginning her senior year at D&E this fall, said she enjoyed learning about how the probation office operates and attending court sessions to learn more about the legal community.
In addition to the time they put in at the businesses, students met weekly for leadership training and also discussed ideas for a community service project based on the perspective they gained. The idea for a social services fair arose after many of them met community members who were experiencing a need for basic necessities. In partnership with the Randolph County Housing Authority, students conceptualized a social services fair that would bring together representatives from multiple area agencies that can provide support and information to local residents.
“There are people experiencing a crisis in food shortage and a need for housing. Even some employers are struggling to find employees,” Cummins said. “We want to create an event with information and resources aimed at helping people get back on their feet.”
Students who would like to apply for the SHIP 2022 program may email Jones at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 304-637-1220.