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Students in Beacon College’s summer Career Immersion Program post outside their posts at the Leesburg City Hall.

By Richard Burnett

As a college intern, Jack Jones built his own field of dreams this summer for a parks and recreation department. And to draw from a famous line in the 1989 movie “Field of Dreams,” the memories were so thick, it was like dipping in magic waters.

“When I was a kid, I used to set up baseball fields with my dad,” said the Beacon College senior from Bethesda, Maryland. “But mostly I would just watch him work. This time, for the internship, I was doing the work, helping set up a field for a softball tournament. We did everything — laid the chalk lines, balanced it out. It was fun and it was a great experience.”

Jones joined more than 40 Beacon students who filled real-world jobs this summer as part of the Career Immersion Program (CIP). The three-week internships immersed them in a range of fields, including hospital human resources, information technology, web design, animal care and rescue, law enforcement, and recreation management.

In its second year, the program placed a majority of the interns in actual workplaces for local companies, according to Theresa Elliott, director of Beacon’s Boven Career Development Center. Last year, because of COVID-19, the interns worked only on campus. This year, the college vetted the participating companies to ensure they were following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines for protecting their workers during the pandemic.

From cultivating basic work skills to navigating workplace relationships, CIP introduces students to a whole new mindset, Elliott said.

“We teach them job skills and employability skills, and provide them a list of what they need to survive on the job,” she said. “Then they go out in the field to work in a job that is as close as possible to their major where they can learn to put it into practice. We think of this as equipping them for adulting, going beyond the everyday things that students usually learn in college.”

For Jones, 21, a human services major, the program has shown him what to expect as he pursues a career in coaching or fitness training.

“It has taught me how the real world works — how to dress professionally, what to say during an interview, and basically how to make sure you don’t mess up,” he said.

Sophomore Owen Siegel, 19, of New York, said the program familiarized him with the day-to-day life and practices of psychological counseling. For his internship, he worked in Beacon’s Counseling Center, providing key insights for a career in psychology.

In the first week alone, he did research on mental disorders in the general population; developed a PowerPoint presentation on celebrities who have gone public about their own mental health issues; wrote a synopsis of a celebrity case study, wrote a paper summarizing an A-to-Z list of mental health coping mechanisms; and helped develop an orientation presentation for new students on campus.

“The best part has been getting to interact with the counselors every day,” he said. “It’s given me the opportunity get to know them, to see what actually makes a good counselor, and how you should present yourself. They gave me a lot of interesting work to do at the center and they were all really helpful. I got a lot of good advice and it’s shown me what counseling is all about.”

Such feedback shows how transformative the internship program can be in the students’ lives, Elliott said.

“They all have a story to share about what they have learned,” she said. “To me, it is so powerful when they get this kind of hands-on experience, especially when it broadens their perspective on what they can do with their degree.”