Village of Swanton and SHS Team Up for Internship Opportunities

For many decades, internships in businesses or other organizations were almost exclusively given to college students looking to learn more about a chosen career and further their employment chances, possibly where they served that internship.  Recently, many high schools have gotten into the act, giving juniors and seniors an opportunity to see what may be involved in a particular career or industry or, more specifically, a job and what type of educational requirements may be needed.

Swanton Village Administrator Rosanna Hoelzle is a strong proponent of internship programs and has brought in Swanton High School (SHS) students in the past during her six-year tenure, including this year.  “I feel very strongly about public service.  I don’t think people understand public service so, I really try to engage as much as I can so people have an understanding,” said Ms. Hoelzle.  “Some of the struggles that we’ve seen is not necessarily that we have to agree on things but that people just don’t understand so they get frustrated and once they understand that kind of changes the tune.  I feel if we start with high school students to have an understanding of what your local government does, what public service is, the next generation will have a better understanding.”

This year Ms. Hoelzle and the Village welcomed Swanton HS senior and The Ohio State University (OSU) bound, Riley Bellner.  It could not have been a better match.  It allowed Ms. Hoelzle, with her experience and her passion for teaching civic engagement to mentor Riley, a very intelligent (Class of 2022 Valedictorian) and eager-to-learn student who will be enrolled in the John Glenn College of Public Affairs while at OSU on a full four-year academic scholarship.

Earlier in her high school career, Riley considered majoring in Veterinary Medicine in college.  But it was her mother, Heidi, who said to her one day, “Why do you want to be a Vet when I’ve never seen you light up, the way I see you light up the way you do when you talk about public service and justice and things like that?”  Apparently, mother knew best.

“Literally, at that moment, it clicked,” said Riley. “This is what I want to do.  I don’t want to be a Vet.  I want to do something for the people.  I want to make the world a better place, if that doesn’t sound too corny.  Since then, I’ve been on that track.”

Ms. Hoelzle also pointed out that she treated Riley, just like she treats all interns, as one of her staff.  She gears the assignments to their interests, which at times includes multitasking, but also expects the assignments to be completed.  “I think it’s important to treat them like it’s going to be when they get a ‘real’ job,” emphasized Ms. Hoelzle.  I’m not sugarcoating anything,” she said.

Riley was able to sit in on meetings discussing the Village’s sewer separation projects and the related road construction that came along with it.  “It’s been amazing,” said Riley describing her time with the Village.  “There have been so many things that I’ve gotten to do.  I sat in on a lot of meetings with the big sewer split.  I happen to live off Garfield, on Allen, right in the middle of it all.  So, it’s been really nice to get explanations to all the stuff I see when leaving my house and coming home every single day.  It’s even nice to be able to explain it to my mom or people around me because there’s so much frustration with the people because they don’t know or they don’t understand.  It’s a lot easier to go over the potholes and not get angry if you understand what is going on.”

Riley was able to spend some time in the field with the Village’s Code Enforcement Officer and had the opportunity to write a few “notices” for nuisance properties that were discovered.  “It was important for her to understand in terms of if you want a community to develop, you want to have a community that follows what the rules and regulations are,” explained Ms. Hoelzle. 

The most important lessons Riley may have learned from her time as a Village intern may have come from observing Ms. Hoelzle’s management style, her interpersonal relationship skills and her overall professionalism.  “She knows so much.  There have been so many other things I’ve learned from her other than just public service,” said Riley.  “Every task she gives she doesn’t just give it and say do it.  She explains thoroughly, why we do what we do and why this is happening and why this decision should be made.”

Academic opportunities made available through SHS have allowed Riley to earn enough college credits to walk on to the OSU campus as a sophomore.  She plans to attain a Bachelor of the Arts in Public Management Policy and Leadership with a specialization in Environmental Policy.  Her long-term goal is to one day be working for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which would be an ironic choice given it was an EPA mandate that was responsible for the sewer separation project that made her neighborhood streets virtually impassable for a short time.

In late August, Riley travels to Columbus to begin the next major chapter in her life.  In the meantime, she will be working a part-time summer job, getting her hands dirty in the interest of public service on the maintenance crew for, who else, the Village of Swanton.

Swanton Village Administrator Rosanna Hoelzle and SHS Intern Riley Bellner

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