“We started it mostly just to teach kids how to be good employees,” said Benji Henslee, internship program coordinator and business teacher at Mazama High School. “People always say, ‘You have to have experience.’ Well, how do you get that experience if you can’t get a job?”
Participating businesses allow interns to learn about a variety of positions within their organizations.
“We ask the hosts not to just have them wiping tables for six hours,” Henslee said.
Nevaeh Nelson and Sierra Niehus, as part of their internships at the Tulelake National Wildlife Refuge, put on waders and caught and banded mallards.
“They taught us how to grab them, put them between our legs and band their legs,” Nelson said, “and then we’d release them.”
Nelson also helped lead canoe trips around the refuge, answered phones and provided information to tourists at the front desk.
Niehus and Nelson spent part of their time on the refuge with the Youth Conservation Corps, building trails and painting sheds. Nelson, who wants to be a zoologist, hopes to get a job next year with the YCC.
“One day, we pulled 600 thistles,” Nelson told a roomful of parents and supporters at a recent end-of-the-year celebration. What she learned: “Do NOT touch thistles barehanded.”
Hunter Cox, a junior at Henley High School, interned with OSU Extension Service’s 4-H program. Among other duties, he organized and set up the small animal barn for the Klamath County Fair. Next year, he plans to do it again---as a volunteer.
Cox, who wants to be a pediatric oncologist, said his internship helped him learn tolerability and likely improved his “bedside manner.”
The goal of BPIP is to provide students with work experience they can use to apply for jobs outside the program.
Ray Holliday, owner of Holliday Jewelry in Klamath Falls, joined the program last summer and hosted his second intern this summer.
He believes the program benefits the teenagers it serves.
“It helps them see the importance of what they’re learning in school, and they get a taste of the working world,” he said.