By Darlyn Finch Kuhn
Beacon College students don’t seek just internships anymore. That’s because now they can take part in experiential learning opportunities that, in addition to traditional internships, also include job shadowing, volunteer work, and apprenticeships.
This flexibility “supports a wider scope of opportunities students can engage in during their school breaks that provide for increased ways to engage in hands-on learning with a [corporate] partner,” said Melissa Bradley, director of the Juan and Lisa Jones Center for Career Preparation.
Fifty-one Beacon students engaged in experiential learning opportunities between June and August 2023. Nearly 85% of those met their 80-hour minimum graduation requirement this summer alone.
Bradley said the new emphasis is helping students “stack experiences over time, versus waiting until senior year to knock out all 80 hours.”
Students now are encouraged to gain experiential learning in their hometowns, while on vacations or short-term stays, in the local Beacon College area, or through the college’s Career Immersion Program or other local experiences.
Here are some students who enjoyed productive, career-focused summer experiences.
Lucia “Lucy” Peraza — This summer, the human services major volunteered as a camp counselor for Dr. Gigi’s Raise Me Up Foundation in Miami, Florida, in a program called Summer of Success, which serves individuals with autism, cerebral palsy, and other neurological disabilities. Peraza accompanied young adults to businesses including the Four Seasons Hotel, Burger King, Zoo Miami, and the Hotel Colonnade to introduce them to career opportunities.
Like them, she also soaked up hacks for acing job interviews. And she discovered many Plan Bs exist should she pivot away from her dream of becoming a teacher.
“The program experience [revealed] other places in the workforce if I happen not to become a teacher,” Peraza said. “I could work at the front desk of a hotel, or as a zookeeper, or in a hospital.”
Bolstering her teaching chops, she also worked with children at her church over the summer, gaining experience (and patience).
Maeve Shaughnessy — The psychology major served in a more traditional internship at the Parc Center for Disabilities in St. Petersburg, Florida. She offered group classes and sessions in jewelry making, storytelling, origami, and more.
She is quoted in a Parc Center profile, saying, “Here at Parc Center for Disabilities, every day is new!” That enthusiasm fuels her desire to continue volunteering at Parc Center even after she’s completed her required internship hours.
Javier Escudero — The anthrozoology major this summer job shadowed a veterinarian technician at Chase Sanctuary, a nationally-recognized Florida-based animal rescue center. He learned her duties, how to interact with the lemurs, tortoises, and monkeys, and how to tidy their enclosures. He also enjoyed hands-on experience designing enclosures and enrichment opportunities for lemurs.
He said he especially enjoyed interacting with the Australian lemurs because “they aren’t an animal you see around here every day.”
Escudero managed to overcome early jitters — earning thumbs up marks for his tenure.
“It’s important to experience new things,” he says. “You never know until you do it. You may like it, or you may not, because everyone is different. Hey, it may not be your thing. Or it may lead to a job in the future.”
Emily Laliberte — For helping to improve Narragansett Bay with Save the Bay Exploration Center in Newport, Rhode Island, the anthrozoology major earned praise.
James McIntyre — Through the college’s Career Immersion Program (CIP), the business hospitality major learned the hospitality ropes staffing the front desk and serving in housekeeping, food and beverage services, maintenance, sales, and security at the upscale boutique hotel The Brownwood Hotel & Spa in Wildwood, Florida.
While early morning starts and learning a new skill every few days in a different department was challenging, he adapted and now recommends the CIP program.
Benjamin Strauss — His summer with Fist Bump Media in Mount Dora, Florida, allowed the business management major to engage in digital marketing, social media management, and entrepreneurship.
Alongside fellow Beacon intern Ben Korb, Strauss enhanced his graphic design skills and learned to captivate social media viewers with creative designs, including neon backgrounds. He learned the best times to post to various platforms and what hashtags to use for the most impact. He also visited the local Chamber of Commerce twice, meeting business owners and improving his conversation skills.
“The CIP internship is a wonderful experience, and I recommend it very strongly,” Strauss said. “It was definitely worth three weeks of my summer.”
While multiple experiences are not needed, the career center encourages students to embrace variety in smaller doses as undergraduates. That way, they stack their resumes long before graduation through hands-on, on-the-job experience in industries related to their majors and exposure to potential career pathways that align with their studies.
Bradley hopes this flexible new approach to experiential learning will help Beacon College students “build a robust portfolio of experiences and opportunities that will lead to future job searches and employment.”
From the looks of things, many students are well on their way.