When some people envision a summer internship, they picture a glorified gopher, answering phone calls and picking up Starbucks while hoping to make a few meager professional connections. For LSA junior Michael Chrzan, his experience was anything but.
After some online research and networking, Chrzan applied to a highly competitive internship at Breakthrough New York, a Brooklyn school whose focus is on helping high-potential students from lower income families attend four-year universities. The school employs college students during the summer months to teach courses that the middle- and high-school students will need to be competitive for college.
Under the supervision of Breakthrough’s Middle School Director Alex Brady, Chrzan planned lessons, developed curriculum, and mentored students. “My role was not the stereotypical errand runner,” Chrzan says, adding that he had to teach two science classes per day as well as teach an elective course three times per week to rising seventh graders. The hours could be long, Chrzan says, but seeing his students’ progress throughout the summer made it worth it.
For example, Chrzan says he noticed that one particular student had a habit of not attempting any of the weekly vocabulary quizzes, so he pulled her aside and talked to her. Eventually, he convinced her that she could do better, and that she could at least attempt the quizzes. She ended up doing well, and at the end of the summer, she gave him a card that expressed how much his help meant to her.
“She thanked me for not giving up on her, and she told me that she knew I cared because I didn't let her not try. I still have the card on my wall,” he says.
In addition to inspiring students, Chrzan honed his skills in the classroom. “I got strong training and experience teaching, as well as time management and quick-thinking skills,” he says.
The internship solidified Chrzan’s future plans in teaching.
“It showed me that I was not only able to teach, but that I’m good at it,” he says. In high school, Chrzan taught every summer as a teaching assistant at a mathematics summer camp, but he hadn’t planned on teaching as a career. He only began to consider it seriously when he was recognized as the Outstanding Teaching Assistant at the camp his final year.
Director Alex Brady attributes Chrzan’s success as an intern and teacher to his “warm, positive personality,” but also notes that Chrzan grew professionally throughout the summer.
“He advanced in his ability to look towards ‘big picture’ planning. He learned very quickly the rigors of a high-stakes teaching position,” Brady says. “The value of an internship for a student is getting the opportunity to have some authentic work experience while you are still finalizing more permanent decisions about what to do after graduation.”
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