Seventeen-year-old Brandon Lea will graduate high school in 2017 with a security clearance.
The senior is one of two Meade High students participating in an internship at the National Security Agency through Anne Arundel County Public School’s internship program.
“I thought it was a great opportunity,” Lea said. “It’s pretty cool to work for the NSA in high school.”
The internship program partners AACPS high school seniors with local organizations and businesses. The impact is twofold: students get real-world job experience and local businesses get talented workers.
To be considered for an NSA internship, students must be at least 16 years old, a U.S. citizen and a rising high school senior. They are required to fill out an online and hard copy application, attach their transcript and have a minimum of a 2.5 GPA.
Jill McKay, internship facilitator for AACPS at Meade High School and Severna Park High School, works with students to improve their resumes, prepares them for interviews, and ensures they have a positive experience by reviewing daily logs on the internship portal.
“[This program] is huge,” she said. “It gives kids real-world experiences. It gives them purpose; it gives them direction.
“Kids are coming out of high school with an incredible amount of talent. It’s endless what these kids can do so quickly.”
For an internship at the NSA, students must also complete certain business education and computer-related classes before sending in their application.
“My high school classes taught me the basics,” Lea said. “Where I work, we get full details.”
A military child, Lea said that without the military he wouldn’t have this opportunity.
“What the military has done for me is that it placed my family here,” he said. “I was able to take advantage of that.”
Lea, who plans to major in software programming in college, said his experience at the NSA is directly related to what he wants to pursue in the future.
“They’re teaching me things I never knew before working there,” he said. “I’ll definitely use these skills later. I love computer programming.
“I saw the internship and decided I really wanted to do this.”
To help motivate students and promote awareness about internship opportunities, internship facilitators across the county offer “Lunch and Learns,” a monthly activity for students that covers topics like communication skills, resume writing and the effect that social media can have on job outcomes.
Tammy Diedrich, manager of the AACPS internship and business programs, and her team of nine internship facilitators work with and monitor students’ progress through an online portal.
Using the portal, businesses and students can create profiles, browse job postings and apply to open positions. Students can log hours and write a short synopsis of their day.
AACPS Superintendent George Arlotto’s eventual goal is for 100 percent of seniors to complete internships before leaving high school, said Diedrich.
“The best time to start thinking about an internship is in the junior year of high school,” Diedrich said. “Students can start preparing, writing their resume and working with their internship facilitator to get prepared.”
Students interested in pursuing an internship can apply during open enrollment in the fall and spring semesters. Throughout the course of the internship, students will be released early from school and aim to complete about 135 hours of work per semester, said McKay.
In 2016, around 900 Anne Arundel County seniors applied for various internships. Through the program, they were partnered with local businesses that aligned with their career interests.
Diedrich said that 100 percent of students that apply for an internship generally get one.
“The benefit for the students is being able to apply academic and technical skills in a real-world situation,” she said. “They can build their resumes for future opportunities and prepare for college and future employment.
“It’s a great way to explore before leaving high school,” Diedrich said. “Students will be able to graduate high school with a general direction of where they’re going.”
Are you a student interested in interning or a business thinking about adding an internship position? Contact Jill McKay at 443-679-6207 or firstname.lastname@example.org or follow the internship facilitator team on Twitter @AACPSinternship.