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Norwalk Spear

Norwalk Spear

Focusing in on the Internship Program with Mrs. Irlmeier

As Norwalk High School’s internship program continues, it stands as a testament to the power of experiential learning in shaping the next generation of professionals
Jodie Irlmeier
Senior Colton Lippold poses for a photo at his internship at Wellabe this semester. At Wellabe, Lippold is an information technology intern.

As students begin to envision their future paths, Norwalk High School’s internship program aims to provide them with hands-on experiences tailored to their career interests. The program seeks to bridge the gap between classroom learning and real-world application.

Jodie Irlmeier, the teacher leading the program, said the future success of students is highly important.

“The goal would be to provide students an opportunity to investigate future career opportunities,” she said. “We really like to see students get hands-on experiences related to their future pathway.”

The cornerstone of this initiative is the Career Skills Development class, offered during the first semester and available to all students. This course serves as a preparation ground for the workplace, focusing on essential skills such as resume building and cover letter writing. 

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“Even if you are not planning on getting into an internship, you can take the course to focus on your resume, cover letter, and other skills,” said Irlmeier.

Unlike traditional internship programs with predefined job lists, Norwalk’s approach allows flexibility. 

“There’s not a list for jobs; it is based on what the students are interested in,” said Irlmeier. “Any career the student comes to me with interest in and wants to learn more about, I try to partner them the best I can.”

Irlmeier said the program brings a number of benefits to students.

“One of the big advantages is that the student gets to dive deeper into their career field of interest and learn from those who have the expertise,” she said. “For instance, if a student aspires to become a firefighter, the school collaborates with the fire department to provide hands-on experience.” 

Experiences with professionals through the program is a way for students to gain valuable connections within their desired industry. 

“Another advantage is definitely networking, being able to meet new people who may be able to support them and their future goals after high school,” Irlmeier said. “Those who will be able to help are a valuable resource and help build a good support system.” 

Internship schedules are flexible, accommodating students with varying commitments. 

“A student has three to four class periods where they’re in their internship, whether that be in the a.m. or the afternoon,” Irlmeier said. “Some students with flexible schedules can even opt for a more condensed internship schedule during the eighth and ninth hours, maximizing their daytime hours.” 

To meet program requirements, students are expected to log 8-10 hours a week, earning both DMACC and Norwalk High School credit. Students also have the possibility to earn money.

“Pay really depends on whether the student can add value back to the organization,” Irlmeier said. “If they can add value, most of those positions would be paid.”

Irlmeier said the program explores new opportunities each year.

“Every year there are always a few paths that we have never explored or had a placement for, so it is always exciting to find a program to partner with,” she said. “Last year’s standout placement was an EMT internship at Mercy One, where a student, equipped with the DMACC EMT course, worked part-time and gained valuable experience in the field.”

Irlmeier said the program allows students to come back for long term positions after their internship has passed.

“Some have gone back to the same placements the next summer after graduating,” she said. “It’s not just a school-year experience. Many of my interns will intern through the school year and are given an opportunity to stay on with them for the summer.”

Numerous students ended up staying in the position from their past internship in high school. 

“An example would be a student we had in a lube tech position at Gregg Young here in Norwalk, who is still currently being employed even after high school,” Irlmeier said.

Parker Sweet, a Norwalk class of 2023 graduate, used the internship program to help build a foundation for his career out of high school. 

“I took an internship focused in carpentry,” he said. “What got me involved in the program was that I had enough room in my schedule and heard I could make money with what would have been school hours.”

Sweet said that the program gave him opportunities to get hands-on training with new experiences. 

“A memorable moment in my internship was that I started and finished a basement,” he said. “I had never done that before, so it was really cool to see it evolve from start to finish.”

When asked to rate the helpfulness of the program to his future, Sweet said he valued the opportunity the program gave him.

“I would rate it a strong 10 because I got a job with them after I graduated, so the connections were meaningful and lasting.”

Sweet said he would recommend students reach out to Mrs. Irlmeier for more information. 

“I would recommend internships because of the possibility to make money and explore a career field to determine if that is what you want to do,” he said. “Mrs. Irlmeier and the program as a whole was a great stepping stone for me and my career, so reaching out could be the start of something bigger than just a high school class.”

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About the Contributor
Keegan Johnson
Keegan Johnson, Staff Writer
Keegan Johnson is a junior at Norwalk High School and Staff Writer for The Spear. This is Keegan's first semester in journalism class, and he joined because of a friend's recommendation who had good experiences in the class the year prior. Keegan says he enjoys playing video games, and participates in jazz band, marching band, and rugby. “Something interesting about me is that the rugby team I play for was started by my brother in his sophomore year of highschool," he said. "It is also a unique and fun experience having my dad as the coach of the team even though it can be challenging at times," he said. Johnson said he is also entertaining the idea of playing in college.
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