Students learn on the jobIn their senior year the Model Secondary School for the Deaf (MSSD) seniors exchange classroom learning for on-the-job learning. As part of their graduation requirements each senior at MSSD participates every Wednesday in a five-hour- a-day internship for 18 weeks.
Before a student crosses the threshold at his or her work site, a great deal of background planning takes place with the help of Tyese Wright, a transition specialist, and Allen Talbert the work experience specialist at MSSD. Wright and Talbert aim to make the best possible match between a student's interest and the needs of available employers. "We use career exploration software called Career Cruising to assist our students in preparing their resumes and in learning about career options and further education," said Wright.
The transition counselors are always seeking new internship sites in the areas of business; public/social /services; marine science/veterinary science; health/medicine; and communication. They research online in the area for businesses and organizations that fall into these categories, and make contacts through the deaf community, and the Clerc Center and Gallaudet University communities, to share information about the program. Towards the end of junior year, Wright and Talbert help students review job placement options for their senior year. Students select two possible areas of interest for the next academic year from the five categories.
"After each student fills out an interest form, we make the final placement selection based on a student's resume, academic record, attitude, and previous work experience," said Wright.
All internships are located near a public transportation site. One week before the internships are scheduled to start, students, accompanied by an adult volunteer, conduct a dry run to and from their worksite. During this practice students meet their employers for the first time, discuss work duties, and address communication issues.
The MSSD Internship program which is now in its twelfth year has developed a strong working relationship with a number of employers who take interns every year, such as the Library of Congress, the National Association for the Deaf, Frager's Hardware Store, and the National Zoo. Employers value the perspective of the teenage interns and their enthusiasm and interest.
Claude Stout is president of TDI, a telecommunications company in Silver Spring, Md., that has been an internship site for MSSD students for several years. "In my field, teens and young adults are often early adopters of new and emerging technology," he said. "When we bring the interns to visit policymakers at the federal level, the policymakers get to meet young consumers and hear from them about their daily experiences using TV captioning, making calls via a relay system, and surfing the Internet-and not being able to get captions on every video posted there."
"Last spring we had the two interns develop a script and then produce a vlog about the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and its work on disability access," said Stout. "We had them develop an equivalent of a Kids Post newsletter for our TDI World quarterly magazine. We took them to visit with the staff of Disability Rights Office at the FCC. Also, they observed the deliberations of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Consumer Advocacy Network, in one of its regular monthly meetings in Peikoff Alumni House at Gallaudet."
While on the internship site, both the intern and the employer get to "check each other out" for potential future career or summer job employment opportunities. For example, Eric Brooks, who now works as a full time employee at the Library of Congress, got his start as an MSSD intern.
"The internship program gives students an opportunity for personal growth and career awareness planning," said Wright. The students learn how to develop resumes, practice interviews, and practice such job skills as time management, communication, self-advocacy, and interpersonal relations. Upon completion of the academic year, students make a presentation regarding their internship experience as part of their senior portfolio of work.
If you know of any business or organization in the Washington, D.C., area that would be interested in sponsoring an MSSD intern, please contact Tyese Wright or Allen Talbert.