Darien High interns celebrated
DARIEN — Carson Stewart is an actor.
The Darien High School senior is president of the school’s Theater 308 program and has performed in his share of school productions. But unlike most high school-aged aspiring actors, Stewart has gotten some real- life, New York City stage experience in the past few months.
This spring, as part of the Darien High School Senior Internship Program, Stewart traveled to New York City daily to work as a production assistant with Clubbed Thumb, a nonprofit theater company that Stewart said is “committed to producing funny, strange and provocative plays.”
Stewart, who was scheduled to graduate Thursday, was joined by a staggering 326 members of the class of 2016 in a noisy Darien High gymnasium Tuesday to share his theatrical experiences at the school’s annual Internship Fair.
“I got to work with a bunch of Tony Award-winners,” Stewart said, smiling, above the din of nearly graduated seniors talking excitedly about their life lessons.
Stewart will take what he learned in New York City to Chicago, where he will enroll at Northwestern University in 2017. Stewart plans to study theater after taking a gap year acting around the country in the national tour’s production of “Fame.”
Standing proudly next to Stewart was Francis Janosco, an English teacher at Darien High and co-director of the school’s Internship Program.
“Our goal is that we want to put them in a position to do meaningful learning outside the classroom,” Janosco said. “This is the seventh year of the program and the biggest. Three years ago, we only had 62 (students), so we’ve taken leaps. I think it will continue to evolve and we’ll continue to have more kids down the road.”
The program requires students to work at least 25 hours a week for five weeks. Janosco said 95 percent of students find their own “sites,” as the placements are called.
“We have a skeletal committee that works with us year-round to help place kids, but they are mainly finding these sites on their own,” Janosco said.
Andrew Morley, who moved to Darien from Seattle in January, found a social media marketing internship with the Darien Foundation for Technology and Community. He helped rebrand the organization as the shorter, sharper Darien Foundation. He also helped manage the group’s social media presence.
“It’s nice to have the real-world experience. Once you’ve taken AP exams, your brain is fried,” said Morley, who will enroll at Harvard University this fall and compete on the school’s crew team. “So it’s good to get out of the classroom and get a glimpse of how things work.”
Katherine Culliton and Caroline Tortorella, who will attend Bucknell University and Dickinson College, respectively, found a placement at Force 5 Lacrosse, a Darien-based lacrosse uniform and apparel provider.
“They assigned us a project at the beginning, and our job was to pick an audience to create a T-shirt for. We chose to make a shirt for the Class of 2016,” Culliton said. “I want to study economics in college, so it was an opportunity for me to get a look at how small business works.”
“Sales were slow at first,” Tortorella said, “but we learned how to create (and sell the shirts) through all steps of the process. We got to work with a designer to make the shirts. I’m more into the creative side, so I was really excited about working with a graphic designer.”
In addition to their experiences, Janosco said many participants have received offers for summer jobs at their internship sites. Others have been pledged references or letters of recommendation down the line.
And for students preoccupied with visions of graduation and college campuses, the program is a salve for the scourge that is senioritis.
“Once you hit second semester as a senior, it’s hard to keep the motivation up,” said Tortorella said. “Even just showing up to class can be hard, so it’s a good way to learn outside the class. And it’s great to have on your resume.”