Darien High interns get real world experience



Geoff Parnon has been an active volunteer for At Home in Darien, a non-profit organization that serves to help senior citizens live independently, and he chose to continue with his work there as an intern. — Gina Blum photo

It’s a big world out there, and Darien High School’s Class of 2016 is just starting to experience the reality of it all through partaking in the annual internship program.

The program, which gained significant popularity over the past three years to the point that nearly all members of this year’s class are participating in it, allows seniors to leave campus after Advanced Placement testing to pursue an unpaid internship for four to five weeks at sites as far away as New York City.

For some students, this is the perfect chance to wind down and to take the time to explore new interests and careers they had not previously considered. For others, like seniors Breana Del Gatto and Nora Markham, the internships are golden opportunities to gain more experience in fields that they are already passionate about.

Markham and Del Gatto have been working at NorthSouth Productions, a private television production company headquartered in New York City that has worked with many big-name broadcasting companies, including Discovery,TLC, A&E, Food Network, and Lifetime.

“One of the biggest shows NorthSouth Productions produces is Impractical Jokers, which Nora and I are huge fans of. So through that contact, Nora was able to get in touch with the production company, and she invited me along with her because she knew how interested I was in the film and television industry,” explained Del Gatto when asked about how the pair ended up with such a unique internship opportunity.

“We do things ranging from simple intern jobs like cleaning the office, organizing the closet, and picking up checks across the city to transcribing uncut, new footage for current and premiering shows. Transcribing was very meticulous, but it was a great opportunity to see how it was done. We were also able to watch footage from a few of their new shows that they’re pitching to companies like MTV. I was even assigned to find props for one of their new shows to use in one of their next episodes,” said Del Gatto.

Markham echoed this when she said that “the most rewarding aspects of my internship are seeing the work that I do actually be of importance to the company and eventually read the public for them to enjoy as they watch TV. It is surprising to me how much work must go into every minor details of just one episode of a show.”

Other students, however, are seeking to follow their passions from a more local level. Cheyenne de la Rivera, for instance, is working at Young Life, an American evangelical Christian ministry that she has been a part of since middle school.

“I help my town Young Life leader Jen, who runs Norwalk and Darien Young life, by planning out fundraisers for our summer camp trip and activities for the school year. The majority of my internship has been seeking out people to try and get them to come to camp…[I work with] basically anything Young Life-related, from hanging out at a coffee shop with Jen and talking about ministry, to running a monthly “club” (our meetings), to writing and then delivering a Campaigners talk, our Bible study, to 15 kids,” described de la Rivera.

For Emilio Rivero, the Darien High School internship program served as an opportunity to expand upon the many extensive leadership roles he has held in clubs in the town and the high school community, so “continuing to [stay involved] seemed like a natural next step.”

“I thought I’d keep busy and still help with a serious, community-oriented internship. I looked at the list of internship sites from last year, saw that some kids had interned at Congressman Himes’ Stamford Office, and emailed the contact listed. After that I had to do an interview and write a short essay, and a couple days later, I found out I had it,” Rivero said.

Being in a government position under Himes means that “I’ve mostly been compiling information for the D.C. and Bridgeport Offices. Mostly I do research online, summarize it onto an excel or word document, and hand it in. However, if a constituent calls or comes into the office, my focus shifts to whatever it is they might need,” Rivero described.

While he does not consider the research aspect to be particularly rewarding, “thankfully the interpersonal relationships with constituents make up for that.”

“I’ve greatly enjoyed moving past simply the Darien community and into the entire 4th District, which contains many of our neighboring towns. The problems I am dealing with now are very distinct…communities adjacent to one another can diverge in many ways,” Rivero explained. Ultimately, he has enjoyed his time catching a glimpse of the inner workings of local government and cites the experience as one that has motivated him to seek a career in whatever will best allow him to assist others.

Geoff Parnon, another Darien High School senior, sought out an internship that embodies a similar spirit of volunteerism and assistance. Parnon has been an active volunteer for At Home in Darien, a non-profit organization that serves to help senior citizens live independently, and he chose to continue with his work there as an intern.

“The main project that I have been working on for the past month or so is the walking club that will be started at the Mather Senior Center. I have made ten walking routes of different distances ranging from .8 to four miles that originate from and end at the Senior Center. For these walking routes I have plotted the distances, written out the directions, and noted the conditions of the sidewalks or the lack thereof,” explained Parnon.

The seniors benefitting from the club are not the only ones who are thankful for his hard work. “Geoff is fantastic and we are very fortunate to have him working alongside us. We are most proud of his success on his project to establish senior friendly walking routes. His thoroughness and thoughtfulness will be a great benefit to the town and will help in keeping Darien seniors engaged, active, and healthy,” said Gina Blum, the executive director of At Home in Darien and Parnon’s supervisor.

Del Gatto, Markham, Rivero, Parnon, and more than 200 other seniors gave presentations about their experiences on Tuesday, June 14, at the annual Darien High School Internship Fair.

Writer Katie Tsui served as an intern for The Darien Times through the Darien High School internship program. 

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