By Alexis Sheets

The bell rings marking the end of school at McNary Heights. Elementary girls and boys line up outside waiting to eat their snack and finally once the kindergartners grab their snacks, students begin to fill up the cafeteria ready to finish the remainder of their day in the Umatilla School District’s after school program.

High School students like Mr. Tyler Lowrance or Ms. Cecilia Cardenas are seen in front of their class tables making sure their students are eating and doing as they are told. That is their job as interns for the STEM program.

It’s easy to learn about the internships. Mrs. Tina Ridings, Mr. Josh Ego, Mrs. Jen Franks and the interns themselves all have information.

“I found out in my 8th period class, my sophomore year, during my Plato class, where I overheard Mrs.Tina talking about the Stem Program. It sparked my interest and I began to ask questions. That day I went to a meeting, where I met the STEM staff.” said UHS junior Ms. LeeAnne Smith.

An Internship is on-job training. These interns are after school teachers. In the program in Umatilla’s schools they can be either paid or unpaid. Internships haven’t always been around for the STEM program but it’s a major part of the program now, they helps it all come together.

“I worked for the intern program for half a year. Now I am a paid employee where I just started my full year working with STEM.” said Ms. Smith.

Ms. Tina Ridings – who students know as Ms. Tina – works at Umatilla High School and McNary Heights Elementary. She helps runs the after school programs as site coordinator.

“I organize all the classes and make determinations of what classes we’re gonna have. Help with the placement of the classes for the students,” Ms. Ridings said. “STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. At the elementary there’s a lot of arts in it that is related to the math part of it because math is really important for everything.”

Mrs. Ridings explains the after school program has also managed to move it into what is called STEAM to bring in arts and reading. A lot of people think that STEM is just robotics, and it is not just that, robotics has a big part in it but there’s so much more to it.

“There were no internships when it was first created, it is a five-year grant that’s called the twenty-first century community learning grant, we are on year four. There are, quite honestly, a couple after school programs at the elementary school for as long as I can remember that have been funded one way or another whether it be a grant or a local donation. But this is the first huge grant that we have had. It was two million dollars for a five year plan. That’s a lot of money but it has also stretched to the middle school and high school,” said Mrs. Ridings.

The requirements for being an intern are simple and easy. Anyone, if they work hard, can meet the requirements.

The requirements needed to work as an intern are very similar to being an employee because you’re learning to be an employee. The first requirement to be an intern is that you have to have a 3.0 GPA. The other requirements for interns: 130 hours of community service which get recorded on their volunteer hours and in addition to that they need to do professional development. Mrs. Ridings said the internships aren’t just to work, they have benefits to help interns in the future.

“It rolls in with teaching them life skills and in addition to job skills. When you get out in the world what we call quote on quote, ‘The Real World,’ it can be a little more challenging. We want to try to prepare our interns as best as possible to be able to adapt in anything that they need could get hit with. Real world is not always fair and if we can prepare our students to be able to handle and deal with those kind of things then I feel like we’ve been a success,” said Mrs. Ridings.

Though both the Middle School and Elementary after schools are the STEM Program, they each have a different set of standards for classes.

“As an intern I was all over the place, meaning I was in several classes as a teacher aid. Anytime Mrs.Tina needed a volunteer for cleaning or crossing guard I often did that. Halfway through my first session Mrs.Tina and Mr.Ego presented me with another opportunity. I began teaching night school,” said Ms. Smith.“Night school is a program where adults can take classes to get their G.E.D, or learn languages. Part of that program is a babysitting service, I did the babysitting services.”

“It is different, the first thing that’s different is that the numbers aren’t as quite as high, when you get into middle school and high school kids have a lot of different things going on, quite honestly elementary kids are a lot easier to please for things that you do. At the middle school there’s a lot more things that don’t keep their attention. So they have a different programs, different classes that they attend.” said Ridings.

With the STEM program going through it’s 2nd session of 2016 into 2017, it has grown further than it’s ever had and with hopes that it will keep growing and become better for years to come.

“I suspect to see it growing more. During the first session, we had 295 students at the elementary after school, that is the largest are registration has been since we had this particular program. What I want to be able to do is to make sure that the interns have the tools to be successful and not become stressed out,” said Ridings, “Lots of times interns hear the phrase, ‘Well their kids themselves so how do they get to teach.’ I don’t agree with that. It does become challenge but their chosen as interns for a reason because they do have a better standard and self control and self assurance. So we want to continue grow that. What I’d like to see happen is the primary bulk of our employees be interns. So that they can grow into becoming teachers who train the new interns as they come through.”