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Regents First Kicks Off its New Summer Internship at Patriots Gateway Center

08/14/2023 10:32 am

By Sara Myers, Digital Media & Communications Specialist

The Rockford University Regents First program, which specially supports first-generation college students, introduced its first pilot summer internship program at the beginning of the summer.

The seven student interns currently work as summer camp leaders/counselors at Patriots Gateway Center, located at 615 S. 5th St. in Rockford. Camp started June 20 and ends Friday, Aug. 18. Six of the seven students are studying education, and one is a nursing student. Julissa Gutierrez and Jennifer Pina are rising juniors at RU, while the rest of the students are rising sophomores.

The interns lead kindergarten through 8th graders, in a combination of group activities with topics in science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics (STEAM).

To prepare for the summer internship, the Rockford University students participated in a  pre-internship program. They attended multiple seminars, including financial literacy, professionalism, and leadership seminars.

“We’ve spent our time investing in them prior to their arrival at the internship site,” said Dr. Karen Walker, RU Dean of Academic Support, Center for Learning Strategies. “They have learned about the professionalism that we want them to embrace and embody, and we’ve talked about the characteristics of effective leaders. And now that they’re at the internship site, we don’t just drop them off and walk away, we’re still there. We’re checking on them and checking in with their supervisors.”

RF Interns Julissa Gutierrez and Mya Barrett—both studying education —  spoke about how their summer internship is going and what they have learned.

“We get to do so many different types of activities with them,” Barrett said. “Last time I was there, we were doing math. But I like how they’re integrating the learning component into it and getting the kids to be able to do fun summer activity stuff.”

Barrett is majoring in Biology with a minor in Secondary Education, with endorsements in English as a Second Language (ESL) and Spanish.

Gutierrez is majoring in Elementary Education and minoring in Bilingual Education and Special Education.

Julissa Gutierrez helps campers during a project at Patriots Gateway Center
Julissa Gutierrez helps campers during a project at Patriots Gateway Center.

“It’s been a very busy summer. I’m really enjoying it,” Gutierrez said. “I think I learn something new every time I go into Patriots. The kids are learning from me and I’m learning from them. It’s been a great growing experience I’d say.”

Another added benefit to the summer internship program is that it’s a paid internship. Barrett said that this definitely was helpful to her but thinks she would still volunteer at Patriots over the summer, but only once a week while she works at AMC Movie Theater.

“I definitely might not have been as able to just because it’s a full-time role,” Gutierrez said on the internship being paid. “I have been working with children and that was the goal. Last year, I did Discovery Center (as a paid job) for the summer, but I definitely know for me it helped a lot that it was paid, and I think that is definitely incentivizing.”

The seven RF students who participated included: Julissa Gutierrez, Mya Barrett, Arwen Johnson, Ana Contreras, Kiarra Myrick, Nicole Facer, and Jennifer Pina.