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The value of experience: Business leaders, Smith Academy students explore internship possibilities

  • left, Matthew Bouley, and Annie Neves, talk about their experience as a Smith Academy student during an event with local business owners. —CAROL LOLLIS

  • Cecilia LaFlamme, 16, talks about her experience as a Smith Academy student during an event with local business owners. GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Miya Walto, talks about her experience as a Smith Academy student during an event with local business owners. In the background is Casey Pescitelli, a school counselor. GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Annie Neves,16, talks about her experience as a Smith Academy student during an event with local business owners. To her left is Hannah Rickert, front left is Miya Walto, Cecilia LaFlamme, Sophie Williams, and Finnegan O'Connor. —CAROL LOLLIS

  • Middle kneeling, Jessica Kaczenski, owner of Jessica Marie Photography Inc. talks to a group of Smith Academy Students about what they would be interested in as an internship as part of an event at the school with local business owners. —CAROL LOLLIS

  • Smith Academy student Annie Neves, left, talks with Jessica Kaczenski, owner of Jessica Marie Photography Inc., along with a group of Smith Academy Students discussing what they would be interested in as an internship as part of an event at the school with local business owners. GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS



For the Gazette
Sunday, April 15, 2018

HATFIELD — Internship partnerships between schools and local businesses can be mutually beneficial — cooperation like this provides companies with extra hands and students with necessary work experience.

On Wednesday afternoon, Smith Academy hosted its first luncheon with businesses in the area to promote internship partnerships and work-study opportunities for students at the school.

“We’re looking for opportunities for our students to get real-world experience,” Superintendent John Robert said. “We’re looking for some partners in business to help explore these opportunities for our kids.”

While listening to a presentation about Smith Academy’s curriculum and extra-curriculars, business owners heard testimony from a group of juniors and seniors about their experience in work-studies and studying at the school.

One of the smallest public secondary schools in Massachusetts, Smith Academy serves a total of 186 students from grades 7-12, with an each grade averaging 31 students.

“Our students are involved in a lot, they participate in a lot of things and their academics speak for itself,” school counselor Casey Pescitelli said during the presentation. “If you’re interested at all in ever having students do job shadowing, internships or work-studies, it would be a great opportunity for our students and hopefully for you as well.”

Businesses in attendance were given a “community partnership form” that they could fill out while eating a catered lunch so the school could follow up on potential future collaboration.

One student, senior Miya Walto said that her current internship at Hillwood Stables in Hatfield has given her the opportunity to not only learn barn management, but satisfy her school’s physical education requirement as well.

“I have eight horses that I am responsible for a couple of days a week,” Walto said. “I plan on riding for a while and I’ve been doing it since I was 5. It’s really great to make connections within the horse world which I’m able to do.”

“We get opportunities during the summer like grooming jobs for big horse shows … it’s really great to make connections in the community for sure,” Walto later added.

Business representatives at the luncheon were impressed by the students and the presentation, many of whom staying to network with other owners and students about the possibilities of internships at their companies.

Jessica Kaczenski, owner of Jessica Marie Photography in Hatfield, said that she has had students from Amherst and Northampton intern with her in the past. Her interest in the luncheon, she said, stems from her belief that community involvement in education was important.

“I think it’s always nice to have fresh, young blood coming at you and helping,” Kaczenski said. “You get stuff out of it too, we all get dry and stuck in our ways so it’s nice to bring them in.”

Other businesses said that although Smith Academy’s academics prepares students, there is a lot more to be learned with hands-on experiences.

Matthew Poirier, lab operator at Turf Care Supply Corp. in Hatfield, said that students with a science background might benefit from working in his company’s chemical quality testing for its fertilizer manufacturing facility.

“If there are any students interested in chemistry or analytical chemistry, that’s what I do in the lab,” Poirier said. “They can learn how to run some of the instruments, how to do basic chemical extractions and some sort of things like that as an internship or a work-study.”

The effort to put together the luncheon came from the fact that Smith Academy was a small school, and that there was a need and a desire from students to get work experience, Pescitelli said after the presentation.

“This was a good opportunity to invite people in,” Pescitelli said. “I know what’s going on here, I know the amazing things our students are doing and the opportunities that they’re taking on, but we wanted to show other people those things.”