Internship program flourishes into senior staple

Photo contributed by Sophie de Brujin ‘14: Sophie de Brujn takes a break from her hard work and visits some lions in the town of Vrede in the Free State province of South Africa.

Photo contributed by Sophie de Brujin ‘14: Sophie de Brujn takes a break from her hard work and visits some lions in the town of Vrede in the Free State province of South Africa.

Sophie de Bruijin ’14 concluded her senior year busy at work in South Africa. For three weeks she had shadowed an orthopedist in Johannesburg, worked at a medical supply manufacturing company, received hands on experience in a private hospital, and volunteered in a public hospital in Sowetto amongst the tumult of the region’s poverty and disease. However, De Brujin was yet to graduate high school.

The senior internship program that de Bruijin, and many others, were fortunate to participate in began nine years ago after principal John Dodig was inspired by a similar program in Greenwich. He set a committee into motion, investigating both Fairfield County programs and out of state programs, and with the help of town supermom Joyce Eldh, Staples senior internships rolled into action. What began as 46 students has grown to 98 percent of seniors going on internship in 2015.

Dodig’s first thought about the program’s benefits was that more and more seniors were applying early decision to college. “The reason I like it, one is for sanity’s sake,”  Dodig said with a smile. “Senioritis begins a lot earlier than it did when I was in school and I understand why.”

Secondly, and more importantly, internships offer a glimpse into the variety of real-life careers and allow seniors to apply the skills they have honed over the past four years to the outside world. The Staples program lets students intern anywhere, even abroad like de Bruijin, and tailor the experience to their own interests provided the internship is approved by program director Lee Saveliff and has substantial educational value.

“We get wonderful emails from people that have hedge funds, and lawyers and veterinarians, and they’re just amazed at what our kids can do,” Dodig said.

Students are amazed at the profound experiences and opportunities their internships provided and will provide for current seniors. One such alum, Charlie Greenwald ‘12, worked as a video editor for the online content of the major league baseball website (

“It was a terrific experience coming into work every day and working on creating content for a professional baseball organization,” he said. “The passion is infectious and you learn a lot,” Greenwald continued.

Greenwald continues to pursue the broadcasting and reporting side of sports in college but his senior internship was his first swing at the industry. “ I would happily work in sports – it’s a lucrative, interesting industry with a lot of dynamic companies,” he said.

Mary Bennewitz ’15, has similar aspirations for experience in a future career as a nurse through her internship at Bridgeport Hospital with cardiologist Craig McPherson. Bennewitz’s interest in the medical field was partly  fueled by the material she learned in her anatomy and physiology class, especially concerning the skeletal and cardiovascular systems.

“Since the doctor I’m working with is a cardiologist, I’ll be able to understand his work and the patients’ conditions without confusion,” Bennewitz said.

For Nick Moro ’15, his interest in interning with the detective bureau at the police department was similarly piqued by a specific class, forensics, and a lifelong interest in law enforcement. Although his agenda remains a mystery, he looks forward to the firsthand experience dealing with criminals and interpreting the law, Moro says.

De Brujin can attest to this hands-on, learning opportunity that for her had moments of poignancy. Through her work at the public hospital in Sowetto, South Africa she met a 19-year-old girl who was HIV positive and battling lymphoma. Although her chances of survival were slim de Brujin described the girl as genuinely happy to be alive and grateful for the doctors taking care of her.

“It was really powerful to see someone have that positivity in the face of such adversity,” de Brujin said.

Despite the freedom of internship choice, internships can be a competitive process. Bennewitz was selected out of a pool of applicants for her internship with the cardiologist and both Bennewitz and Moro’s internships required an interview beforehand.

The internship program has proven to be a worthwhile addition to the Staples curriculum. “I’m very proud of the program,” Dodig said. “It’s a basic part of Staples.”