ELLSWORTH — Most teenage boys dread the thought of riding in a police car.
Dana Austin considers it job training.
The Ellsworth High School senior is about to start his second internship with a Maine State trooper.
“It’s the most useful class I’ve ever taken,” Austin said.
The teenager has worked with drug-sniffing dogs, tried out night vision goggles and witnessed arrests while riding along with Trooper Cliff Peterson.
“What we try to stress is that this is an opportunity for them to try a field they’re interested in,” said EHS Principal Bill Connors, who was part of the group that helped start the program five years ago.
“Why not find out now before you go to college and realize it’s not what you want to do,” he said.
Senior Stephanie Swett had dreamed of being an X-ray technician since grade school. After interning in medical radiography at Maine Coast Memorial Hospital, she realized it was not a great fit. A second internship in physical therapy was not right either.
Her third internship in speech therapy at the Charles C. Knowlton School was a success.
“This is what I want to do,” Swett said. “I can’t wait. I’m so excited.”
She has been accepted into the University of Maine speech pathology program for the fall. Her internship history was helpful in the college application process, she said.
The internship program was established in 2004, when just four students participated.
This year, there will be 59 internship placements. Many students enjoy the experience so much they do it again.
The program has placed students with more than 20 different employers. Maine Coast Memorial Hospital and the Knowlton School are leading community partners.
Students must log 30 to 40 hours at their internship over 12 weeks. They write weekly journal entries and end the elective class with a research paper and presentation.
The graded program is open to juniors and seniors and has expanded in the past two years as students recommend it to friends.
After her internship at Maine Coast Memorial Hospital, senior Katherine Seavey plans on becoming a surgical technician.
She has watched a total knee replacement, knee and shoulder arthroscopies and two cesarean sections.
“You don’t know what it’s like until you’re there,” she said.