Internships aren't just for college students anymore

Michelle Stangler

Most internships are typically designed for college students, ready to experience a taste of the real working world. For Jescey Thompson and Mary Lewandowki, they were able to sample that opportunity while still in high school.

Thompson and Lewandowski, both active their respective FFA chapters and communities, not surprisingly, jumped at the chance to join other students this summer in an internship as a means to explore the agricultural industry where they hope to launch careers one day.

Mary Lewandowski of Bevent is serving as the Communications and Events intern for Marathon County Partnership for Progressive Agriculture, a role she has relished since the day after her high school graduation.

The perfect job

Mary Lewandowski of Bevent is serving as the Communications and Events intern for Marathon County Partnership for Progressive Agriculture, a role she has relished since the day after her high school graduation.

So far she's taught Wisconsin agriculture through summer school programs and the organization’s “On The Moo-ve” program which allows children experience milking via an interactive cow model. In addition, she helps coordinate education activities during the Wisconsin Valley Fair.

“It was the perfect job for me to experience firsthand,” she said, “as this is the career I want to go into.”

Lewandowski  learned of the opportunity through a scholarship. She connected with the executive coordinator and is now able to balance the internship while taking online summer classes through Northcentral Technical College. In fall, she hopes to continue earning her Associates degree in Dairy Science and Agri-business and transfer to UW-Stevens Point for a degree in organizational leadership.

The fifth generation dairy farmer plans to remain involved in agriculture through membership in different through organizations. She credits her time in FFA and experiences on the farm for leading her on her current path. She hoped to instill those valuable lessons to the farm's next generation.

Lewandowski says the internship has taught her to balance her schedule while setting priorities. It's also prepared her in becoming a more effective advocate for agriculture.

“I see myself an advocate that promotes the importance of Wisconsin agriculture and is able to connect with the public through truthful education and meaningful opportunities,” she said.

High school student Jescey Thompson of Trempealeau County is seizing opportunities during his summer internship at the University of Wisconsin Extension-Trempealeau County.

New experience every day

Jescey Thompson is all about seizing opportunities.

The Ettrick teen is the summer intern at the University of Wisconsin Extension-Trempealeau County. While each day is different, his tasks vary from helping in the alfalfa plot to teaching students about plant anatomy in the community garden. He's even  aided the 4-H educator in planning events.

“I am taking every opportunity to experience something new each day,” said Thompson. "Not only will the community learn and benefit from our (Extension) studies, but I am learning the process, too.”

When his agriculture instructor forwarded the internship posting to him, Thompson initially thought it wouldn’t hurt to apply although it was meant for high school graduates or college students. Taking advantage of the opportunity has allowed him to continue his passion in agriculture advocacy.

“I have a passion for working with youth and adults in the community while teaching them about agriculture,” said Thompson.

Thompson also serves on the Trempealeau County Farm Bureau Board of Directors as the Agriculture Promotions and Education chair along with serving as the Ag in the Classroom coordinator. He credits these positions in showing how the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation organization and Extension play a role in advocacy efforts.

“By exposing others to the diversity of agriculture, we can change someone’s perspective and even their lives,” said Thompson.

Internships are a way for students to become exposed to wide array of jobs in the field of agriculture. Thompson says he wants to continue learning. "Ever since I was little, agriculture advocacy has been in my blood.”

Growing up on a small dairy farm fed Thompson’s interest and today he owns a herd of show cattle with his brother and father, Jacob and Travis Thompson. 

The Trempealeau County teen will return to the classroom this fall, but once he graduates from high school he plans to attend college and pursue a career in agriculture via policy, lobbying or reporting.

Through internship opportunities, many up and coming generations may be inspired to remain in agriculture. As companies and organizations invest in young people, many ideas shared and tend to benefit for both sides.

As the summer wanes, the days of high school or college students' internships will soon be draw to a close, sending them back to the classroom where they will be able to use those summer experiences again and again.