3 January 2023
From working with a neurologist to study the impact of HIV and AIDS on memory, to stepping into the shoes of a local judge, to learning how to manage an art gallery and assisting at a physical therapy clinic, students have been able to experience a plethora of opportunities through Atholton’s Intern Mentor program.
Intern Mentor is one of the year-long courses through the Advanced Research program with Howard County’s Gifted and Talented office. It works in conjunction with the Independent Research Program, a year-long course, where students are taught how to prepare and execute a substantial research paper. This year at Atholton there are 26 students participating in Intern Mentor, and 22 students participating in Independent Research. While Independent Research is not required for Intern Mentor, it provides a solid foundation for the final paper required for Intern Mentor.
“I would say almost 99% of professionals that I reach out to are so excited to serve as mentors because they are just fascinated with the idea of having a high school student work with them, [as well as] give back said Ms. Chaudhry, Atholton’s Intern Mentor advisor. She added that mentors love to “have young people consider their professions.”
Ms. Chaudhry begins the process of finding mentors during the summer prior to each school year. To apply, students submit an application, stating their internship preferences and Ms. Chaudhry strives to find an ideal fit for each student. During Independent Research her junior year senior Sophia Urdinola wrote about menstrual equity. After thoroughly researching this topic, she wanted to continue learning with a hands on component. She mentioned that over the course of the year, “she discovered [her] passion for menstrual equity and female reproductive health,” and knew that she wanted “to further [her] research and have onsite experience.” With the help of Ms. Chaudhry, she is now partaking in a virtual internship at #Happy Period, a menstrual equity organization based in California.
Urdinola’s internship is heavily research based, with her end goal being to “release a nationwide survey to collect data on how well we are educating people…on menstrual health education to gauge their knowledge [in order to] better improve menstrual health education.” Right now she is, “collecting data on surveys” and learning how to create strong solid surveys. This allows her to understand the whole process from preparing questions to receiving responses and then finally presenting the data found.
Each student has a different role at their particular internship. Sravya Tallapragada, a junior who took Independent Research her sophomore year, is now interning at Howard County General Hospital in their outpatient Neuro Clinic. While this certain part of the Hospital is mostly focused on physical therapy, it is specifically for individuals who suffer from various disorders including Parkinson’s Disease and Scoliosis. She even works with amputees and those who suffer from lasting COVID symptoms. She works with physical therapists to, “connect [these disorders and illnesses] to the brain” because she is “really interested in the neuroscience part.” Tallapragada said she tries “to help out wherever I can, [by] holding a patient’s hand or teaching them how to do an exercise.” Whether it is analyzing data or being an approachable face as patients walk in, Tallapragada is making an impact each day.
Intern Mentor requires a certain amount of hours weekly, which can be a large time commitment for already busy high schoolers, so those who participate are truly dedicated. Depending on the internship and the student’s schedule, they either intern 5th and 6th periods, totalling 8 to 10 hours per week, or just 6th period, totalling 4 to 5 hours per week. Tallapragada does her internship two days a week for two hours each day. This allows her to manage her workload, as well as participate in “several clubs, with leadership positions, [and] honor societies”. She finds that balancing Intern Mentor in addition to other commitments “is a bit difficult, but manageable.”
Senior Sophia Urdinola shared her experience with these two classes stating that, “last year, [through Independent Research], I did a lot of research on menstrual health education and how we can better that, but having direct hands on ability to actually make a change, [is] what I hope to gain.”