On June 6, 2016 SEM’s seniors returned to school after 3 weeks of interning all over the city, the region, and even the school itself. Interning is a ritual and a requirement at SEM - it’s the final step the school takes to prepare students for what comes next: life after high school. For some students the internships validated career and college majors already decided on but for others the internships expanded their vision of what is possible, where, and how.
Interning is also a natural continuation of the four years students here spend immersed in the community that begins with mapping the city and touring landmarks in Western NY history class, to community service with a number of nonprofits like waterfront clean-ups with Buffalo-Niagara Riverkeeper to working at St. Luke’s Mission Mall and tutoring after school at ENERGY, a program at Westminster Presbyterian Church for elementary school aged children, many of them former refugees.
The 43 seniors were back to make presentations to small groups of classmates and faculty about what they’d learned on the job in workplaces as varied as Quaker Bonnet Bakery(Maggie Brannon), the law offices of Barth, Sullivan, Behr (Kaitlin Hughes), The Public(Maia Gallagher), the Kenmore Animal Hospital (Erin Melber) and a French classroom in the Hamburg schools (Andrea DeMarco).
SEM Community Service Board Chair Kendyl Kratzer interned at Grassroots Gardens, a non-for profit organization that starts community gardens in vacant lots. “At first I was a little apprehensive about the whole thing. I mean, how much can you really do with a garden? “ she said. “But I have been so intrigued by how impactful a simple vegetable garden can be in a neighborhood. Many of these gardens are on the West Side and the people who keep them are not originally from the US. Many of the refugees have responded so positively to the gardens because they can grow vegetables they know and love from home.”
Kendyl created a map of the origins of the vegetables being grown in the gardens - there were 11 nations represented. Kendyl said her internship has gotten her excited for college (she will attend Franklin & Marshall College) and thinking about her future. “I know I've always wanted to do some sort of nonprofit or community service for a career, and this really opened my eyes to all the different possibilities out there, not just the typical community service jobs we know about.”
Lena Beyer worked at La Polenta, a steak house in Bucaramanga, Colombia, her mother’s native country. She works at restaurant in Buffalo, and wanted to find out how it would differ in South America. She tested herself by traveling alone and having to use the Spanish she has learned for the last four years. “This trip has been very eye opening,” she said. “While being here I have become even more aware of how precious the education I have received at SEM is, as the majority of the people here don't have the chance to experience that kind of education.”
Natalie Rice, 2015-16 SEMinaria editor, created "SEMinaria for Dummies," a how to guide for future yearbook editors.
TojumiOluw (Towa) Adegboyega will attend MIT in the fall and plans to study aerospace engineering. She interned with Watts Architecture and Engineering, a minority owned firm which provides a variety of architecture, engineering, and environmental services in Western New York, including architecture, asbestos/lead consulting, construction inspection, fire protection engineering, civil and structural engineering, and transportation engineering.
“I've found more and more that I do enjoy creative problem solving, and I learned a lot about the codes and laws engineers have to follow when designing a piece of equipment or working on a project.” Considering Towa’s plans for the future, perhaps what’s most important is, “I've learned more about how engineering is a collaborative profession requiring good communication skills from watching the engineers and architects interact with one another.”
Senior Kelly Wang's typical Chinese grocery store was completely digitally printed in her internship with visual art teacher Caitlin Cass at SEM - from the miniature lottery tickets to the tiny notebook the proprietor's child will do her homework on.
Kerui (Kerry) Xu, who plans major in chemistry at Syracuse University, interned at SEMas a teaching assistant for chemistry teacher Joan Wienckowski. She designed a lab for three sections of juniors that not only helped them but helped her strengthen her own chemistry knowledge while it gave her public speaking experience. “Kerry was a delight to have as an intern this spring. Her diligence and dedication to the task made it a rewarding experience for us both,” said Mrs. Wienckowski.
Kerry discovered what goes into planning and delivering a SEM class, and what goes into being a teacher. “I connected this internship with my volunteer experience tutoring at ENERGY,” she said. “The most challenging part is guiding a student from a wrong answer to the correct one without telling them directly what they did wrong. Education itself is a complicated process that requires lots of energy and patience.”
Bessie Shiroki said her internship at 43North, the Buffalo-based $5 million startup competition “was an amazing opportunity for me to experience a non-traditional working environment, surrounded by startups and entrepreneurs.” Bessie will attend Babson College in the fall which is renowned for its entrepreneurship programs. “I've learned from my internship that there are no set hours to being an entrepreneur and that you go to work once you wake up, stop when you're tired, and, repeat. Becoming a successful company is difficult and takes time and energy.’
Bessie learned that not all things good can be planned to the minute or every last detail which she said is contrary to her nature. “I admire the spontaneity of the 43North environment whether it's a game of ping pong or KanJam in-between meetings or a finishing a project on a tight deadline. It was a great experience to help transition me from Buffalo Seminary to continuing my passion for entrepreneurship at Babson College in the fall.”
Andie Scaccia interned at the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus (BNMC) at the Innovation Center, an incubator for new and growing businesses. She said she knew she wants to pursue corporate public relations and marketing but that now she will consider nonprofits as a possibility too. “My views on that changed once I saw how great this place is.”
Andie, who did not get to take Doug Hopkins’ innovative Western New York history class for freshmen (because he hadn’t begun it when she was a freshman) said, “I knew very little about what they were doing down here and why it was such a big deal but I realized that they are really improving Buffalo with all of the things they do,” she said.
With 100 growing businesses with over 500 employees at the Innovation Center, Andie was invited to meetings, attended special events and worked in varying fields. “I did not think I was going to learn that much in such a short amount of time but I was definitely wrong! I also learned that Matt Enstice, the CEO, has a daughter who attends SEM, and he is an alum of Hobart and William Smith Colleges where I will go. This assured me that I have made the right education choices and gets me excited for my future!”
Picture: Back, left to right: Abigail Hopkins (Just Buffalo), Anna Fretz (Burchfield Penney Art Center) front, left to right: Bessie Shiroki (43North) write thank you notes to their internship supervisors.