For nearly a quarter of a century, Lorane’s Health & Physical Education teacher Mr. Mark Ricketts focused his professional career on building young and healthy bodies. But at the start of the 2021-22 school year, Mr. Ricketts made the leap to the Senior High to build something entirely new: An internship program. Settled into his new role for nearly half a school year now, Mr. Ricketts was thrilled to discuss the progress he’s made, the enthusiasm and experiences of the 11th and 12th grade students he’s overseeing in the program, and the community business connections he’s forged. We sat down recently with him to discuss this new endeavor, which is a key initiative in the Exeter Township School District’s new goal of 100% of students reading at grade level by the end of 3rd grade, 100% of students performing math proficiently by the end of 7th grade and 100% of students graduating on time.
Thanks for meeting with us today to talk about this new initiative. Your new position seems to be a big leap from being an elementary Health & Physical Education teacher to now building a Senior High internship program. Why did you decide to make this change?
I will always love my time working with elementary students and watching them develop their foundational physical and health-related skills and understanding. However, I decided to make the change from elementary teacher to Career Internship Facilitator because I saw the potential of the program and was excited to build up an important asset available to the students of our district. I have a passion for working with students and the opportunity to work with all of our juniors and seniors was too good to pass up. I also saw a great opportunity to build stronger ties with businesses and organizations in and around the Exeter community.
In the short time you’ve been able to focus on developing and growing this program, you’ve brought on more than 50 businesses who are willing to host Exeter interns, which is remarkable! Can you tell me about some experiences that you're really excited to highlight?
There are too many to list, but I'd be glad to highlight a couple. One of our interns works at Exeter Veterinary Hospital and has already been offered a job this summer. Celebration Villa of Exeter (formerly Elmcroft) is another business that has opened its doors and will be hosting two of our interns in the spring. Another intern is currently training in management for merchandising and fashion at Aerie in the Philadelphia Premium Outlets. The Humane Society of Reading has also generously offered our students internships this spring and coming school year. There really is something for everyone. We have a number of Exeter businesses that have been so kind–it shows me how many caring and kind professionals we have in our community.
Are there any internship opportunities that have been difficult to find? What are some of your biggest obstacles right now?
Yes! There are some career areas that are more difficult to find internships for, such as engineering, criminal justice/law, architecture/interior design, graphic and fashion design, accounting, etc. Some specialized fields, such as aviation, can also be difficult to find opportunities for interns, too. Since we’re still a growing program, there also aren’t a lot of businesses who are aware that we have this opportunity and how easy it is to host an intern until I reach out to them. Similarly, there are some students who don’t understand how valuable an internship is for them and how this opportunity is for all students–those who plan to enter the workforce and those who plan to enter college.
Do you think there’s an opportunity for people in the Exeter community to help you grow the program?
Absolutely! I think everyone in the Exeter community could help our students in two ways: First, I'm always looking for help in spreading the word about our program. Talking to family, friends, and business contacts about our program could open opportunities for our students. Secondly, they could help by reaching out to me with any contacts they know at businesses within 25 minutes of the Senior High so that I could get in touch with their contact to inquire if their business, or the business they work at, would be willing to host a junior or senior intern. Often, finding the right contact is the best way to grow our list of willing business partners and the internship program.
How would people get in touch with you if they wanted to pass along a business contact or get more information?
Thanks for asking! They can reach me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or they can call me at 484-663-3831.