Alternative Education Students Expanding Their Horizons Through New Internship Program

John and Jayla sit at student desks smiling

John Calvario and Jayla Terry, students at RCOE’s Arlington Regional Learning Center, are serving their communities, gaining job skills and earning money as part of a new internship program.

RIVERSIDE – Jayla Terry works for a non-profit organization serving thousands of needy Riverside County residents. John Calvario provides support for the Riverside mayor’s office working with community outreach programs.

Both high school students have been given a chance to serve their communities and earn money as paid interns through a new program offered through the Riverside County Office of Education (RCOE) at the Arlington Regional Learning Center (ARLC).

Started in summer of 2017, the Expanding Horizons program for alternative education students is already showing positive results, said Tiffany Walker, an RCOE coordinator.

“Our students can communicate more effectively in workplace environments, manage time more efficiently by prioritizing tasks, and feel more confident in the skills and knowledge needed to make a positive difference in their community,” said Walker.

Students in Expanding Horizons were recognized in a special ceremony on December 18 at the ARLC in Riverside. Students participated in “exit interviews” with school staff and the community partners who provided internship opportunities.

The partnership between RCOE, local non-profit groups, and government agencies, provides internships that are paid by the Constitutional Rights Foundation. Mentors participate in classroom activities to share their experience with issues ranging from workplace etiquette to résumé writing and interview skills.

Students in RCOE’s alternative education programs include youths who are disadvantaged, have been expelled, or who are on probation. The interns work in professional office-type settings at local government offices or non-profit organizations. They typically work a total of 60 hours over a period of eight weeks while earning $10 an hour. They also learn about civic responsibility and why it is important to give back to their communities.

Terry works in accounting at the Family Service Association (FSA), a non-profit organization that offers a wide variety of services including after-school programs for children, to counseling classes for adults, and meals for senior citizens.

“I like to give back to my community and help people,” said Terry, 17, a senior who will graduate in a few months. She enjoys working in the FSA accounting office. She also enjoys her new status as a leader at her school. “I have learned that I can be a leader, I can be successful, and I can be who I want to be.” She plans to attend Riverside City College and study to become a registered nurse.

Her employer appreciates Terry’s willingness to learn new skills. “We have been working with Terry to help her learn basic office procedures, improve computer skills, and work as part of a team,” said Kathy Knox, FSA Volunteer Program Manager. “She follows directions and is willing to learn new skills. FSA is very pleased to work with this new program of RCOE.”

Calvario, 14, said working in the mayor’s office has opened his eyes to new career opportunities. He plans to become an aerospace engineer or attorney.

“It’s helping me to become more independent and responsible,” said Calvario. “I have learned to work together with a team. Everyone on the team has a role in the project. Everyone has responsibilities to the team.”

His supervisor at the mayor’s office said the program gives students real-world insight into future careers

“I think this is a wonderful opportunity for youth to get unique work experience in local government,” said Cheryl Wills, Senior Office Specialist for the City of Riverside. “It allows the opportunity to develop skills they will need to be successful in the future.”