Longtime Riverview High School teacher Effa Beauette was honored with the Sunshine State School Public Relations Association Margie Davidson Leading Light Award Nov. 29, at the Grand Hyatt Tampa Bay for founding and directing the school’s Executive Internship Program since 2004.
The statewide award is given each year to someone who “provides outstanding support to public education in Florida, promotes student achievement and helps connect the community to schools,” among other criteria.
It was presented to Beauette by Sunshine State School Public Relations Association (SUNSPRA) President Joe Landon at the 67th Annual Joint Conference of the Florida School Boards Association, the Florida Association of District School Superintendents, SUNSPRA and other statewide organizations representing various aspects of public schools.
“I’m so grateful to SUNSPRA, Riverview High and district staff, the Riverview High School Foundation, our community-based and school-based internship sponsors, and our past and present interns — all of whom play pivotal roles in the Executive Internship Program,” said Beauette. “For me to be considered a ‘Leading Light’ among everyone who has contributed to the success of this program takes my breath away.”
Now in its ninth year, the program has provided Riverview’s seniors and juniors with opportunities to learn from real-world mentors through unpaid internships in a wide variety of fields, strengthening the bond between public schools and the larger community. Beauette, a veteran educator with 36 years of service to Sarasota County Schools who will retire at the end of the current school year, has worked tirelessly to develop and champion the program.
To date, 555 students have served 610 internships in the community. Many sponsors have been with the program for all nine years. Students apply for the program by completing career-interest assessments and interviews with Beauette and her colleagues in the program. Based on the student’s intended career path, Executive Internship Program managers contact businesses, non-profit organizations and local government agencies that would be a good match.
After being assigned to a sponsor, most student interns spend two class periods off-campus four days a week to gain first-hand knowledge and valuable experience in a professional career. Eight hours per week are required, but the schedule is flexible according to the needs of the intern and the sponsor, with some students choosing to work after school or on weekends. Interns also attend a weekly seminar led by teachers to polish their workplace skills, share their experiences and knowledge with fellow interns and collaborate on creative solutions to challenges in their internships.
Interns bring their stories back to school, extending the impact of the program to their classmates. Medical interns share their experiences with fellow students in biology and physics classes. Students in Career and Technical Education classes apply tangible skills learned through their internships to give them an edge in the classroom. Conversely, students bring what they learn in the classroom to their on-the-job experience.
At the end of each school year a Sponsor-Intern Celebration is held. More than 230 people attend the event each year, including students, parents, sponsors and school staff. Each intern presents his or her “most amazing moments,” which have included witnessing the birth of triplets, helping an accident victim learn to walk again, seeing the first smile on the face of a child with autism, swimming with a shark and nursing a tiger back to health.
Lifelong relationships are often formed through the program, and some students have returned to work for their sponsors.
One former intern has been tapped to take over the engineering firm of his sponsor, who will soon retire. Another intern who struggled academically has completed nursing school and is employed by a local pediatric office. Two former interns plan to establish medical practices in Sarasota. A veterinary intern, now working as an employee for her previous sponsor, is attending college while helping train a current intern.
A student who interned at an elementary school now has a degree in education and plans to pursue a master’s degree. In the meantime she has returned to help current interns develop their career-building skills and tools. The cycle continues as former interns give back and current interns build lasting relationships and a love of the program.
In May, just before she retires, Beauette plans a celebration of the Executive Internship Program with past and present interns, sponsors and supporters.