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The Responsibility, Rewards, & Lessons of Running an Internship Program

By Anna Tracht, Phase II Fellow

Part of my work with the Highland Center over the past few months has been planning and running a Culinary and Hospitality Internship for undergraduate students in that field. As hard as it is for me to believe, the two interns in the program, Codi and Miranda, are already on week nine out of ten. The learning curve was pretty intense, and I’m coming out on this side of the program having learned a lot about responsibility, trust, and leadership.

Miranda (L) and Codi (R) offer an ice cream demo at the Highland Farmers Market

The intention of the program was to bring in these students to work with local farms, the Highland Center, and the Highland Inn, which the Highland Center currently owns and manages. This was my first time having the opportunity to design and run a program, and it presented many exciting challenges. For the first time, I had to think about all the different components necessary for creating a successful program: How to keep the interns engaged, but not too busy; scheduled, but not stuck in a boring routine; and how to balance more formal educational sessions with hands-on, experiential learning.

Codi prepares for the first night of dinner service at the Highland Inn’s restaurant

It’s been incredibly rewarding to watch Miranda and Codi become more comfortable working at the Inn, the restaurant, and with the Highland community in general. They’ve put together weekly food demonstrations at the Highland Farmers’ Market, and worked in the kitchen as we’ve begun dinner service at the Highland Inn’s restaurant. They’ve also been working with local farmers almost every week; one of the goals of the program is to give them a clear understand of the rich local food system in Highland County, and to show how it functions all the way from seedling to plate.

Out on a day of foraging with "Digger Jay"

Over the course of this time, I’ve found myself with a whole new appreciation of all those who put together and lead the Phase I of the AMI Fellowship. Coordinating a program for only ten weeks was hard enough; I can’t even imagine what it takes to stay organized for six months. Over-preparation has turned out to be key, as has clearly and simply communicating to the interns. There were definitely some moments during the planning stages where the responsibility of this program felt like a heavy burden to bear. Ultimately, though, those times have made the rewards that much sweeter, and I’m looking back on all we’ve accomplished over the past two months with pride and excitement for what else is to come.

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