Sedalia FIT (Forty-hour Internship Try-out), the internship program developed by Ed Watkins and Betty Hopkins 18 months ago, continues to help students in Sedalia find their individual pathways for success in the workforce after high school.
Monday evening more than 40 educational and business leaders and students spoke of the success of the program for all participants involved.
“Margaret Mead once said, ‘Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has,’” Dr. Doug Kiburz, board member for Sedalia FIT, said at the beginning of the meeting. “That is what we have in Sedalia and in this program.”
Since the program began, 100 students have been placed in a week-long, 40-hour unpaid internship.
“What this program is doing is a refreshing approach to a problem that can often seem overwhelming,” Lloyd Healy, Career Pathways Manager with the Missouri Department of Education, said following the meeting. “It’s exciting to see that the key groups from the middle school to junior high and high school and then the junior college level are all represented and on board with the program.
“So often it seems that groups spend their time defining positions and there is little action or success,” he added. “This program seems to be a true collaboration between not just the educational side but they also have the employers on board, which is a key component.”
Healy attended the meeting at the request of Missouri Department of Education Commissioner Margie Vandeven.
Vandeven first heard about the program when she was in Sedalia recently and spoke to Sedalia School District 200 Superintendent Brad Pollitt. Pollitt told Vandeven of the program’s impact in the district.
“It’s my job to research what works and come back to the Department and report on what people on the ground level are doing,” Healy said. “I do like what I see here.”
Healy added that one of the reasons, as he understands it, for the success of Sedalia FIT is that the members have “put down their individual aspirations to focus on what’s important and that is the students.”
“One of the goals of the school district is getting people into the schools and building a partnership with the community and the educational process,” Pollitt said. “The program provides an opportunity for the students to see how hard the employers work and they can see the self-worth of those individuals and the community members.
“It’s important for them to see that at the high school level when students are making those decisions about what field to work and where they hope to work,” he added. “I think one of the best endorsements I can give the program is that I want to make sure my youngest daughter, who is a senior this year, takes part in the program.”
Watkins said one aspect of the program that can also be important is helping the students figure out if a career path isn’t the right fit.
“When we do our exit interview, we’ve had about 15 to 20 students say that they have enjoyed the experience, but it really isn’t right for me,” Watkins said. “It allows some students to realize that the path they thought they wanted to puruse may not be the right one after all.
“It helps them to make informed decisions about what they want to do for the rest of their lives,” he added. “We celebrate that we helped someone figure out that something may not be right for them.”
Helping students make a decision about a career goal before entering college is beneficial for them, according to State Fair Community College President Dr. Joanna Anderson.
“We know in order to be successful in college students need to have a career goal,” Anderson said. “Often the only exposure they have to a career may be their mom and dad.
“If they have exposure to other job options we can connect them to a career pathway and help them to complete their degree,” she added. “It also allows us to help employers to make sure our graduates have the proper training necessary to enter the workforce.”
Sixteen students from Smith-Cotton High School participated in the internship during the past week.
“Mr. Healy told me that he believes Sedalia is the first community in the country with a goal of providing an internship to every high school student by 2020,” Watkins said. “It truly couldn’t be done without the support of everyone involved and the community who have helped make this possible.”
The Democrat will profile four of the students and their business partners in upcoming editions.
Hope Lecchi can be reached at 660-826-1000 ext. 1484.