“Grow Our Own” Voices


This summer over 70 rising juniors and seniors participated in the “Grow Our Own” internship program funded with the generous support of the Chesapeake Educational Foundation. I handed my blog over to three interns with our Department of Communications to share more about their experience in the program. Dymond Dallas-Townsel is a junior from Western Branch High School and Maya Banks and Sonika Kumar are both seniors from Grassfield High School.

Through the “Grow Our Own” program, each student received 40 hours of paid work-based learning experience through internships from various departments in our district: CPS Pharmacy, CPS Wellness Center, Communications, and more. Each student intern had to apply and interview for the program and was required to complete asynchronous coursework covering workplace readiness standards in addition to their internship.

The Department of College and Career Readiness introduced the program to inspire, engage and empower their students. Work Based Learning Coordinators placed students in roles related to their interests and coursework. This program allowed the interns to learn more about their prospective careers and gain hands-on experience in those fields. 

The interns enjoyed their experiences developing valuable work skills such as communication, collaboration, and creative thinking. Some students applied for work experience while others are searching for their future career paths. Interns interacted with experienced, talented supervisors that guided them through their internships and taught them about their prospective career paths.

This is the first year that Chesapeake Public Schools implemented the “Grow Our Own” program, and for many students, this was their first work experience. We asked several interns about their experiences and how the program could be improved for the future. They stated that each department should have a clear description of what they do to prevent confusion and many interns think that more collaboration between departments would allow collaboration between interns instead of being separated throughout the city. Even with some suggestions for improvement next summer, the interns were grateful for this unique opportunity and benefited from the skills and knowledge acquired through this program. Below we highlighted just a few of their unique perspectives on the program:

Grow Our Own Student Intern with the Communications DepartmentSonika Kumar
Grassfield High School, Senior
Communications Department

Hi, it’s Sonika Kumar! I applied to the Department of Communications because I wanted to refine my graphic design skills. I also wanted to learn more about the Department of Communications and how they contribute to the community. The Department of Communications does quite a lot for CPS; I find their work fascinating (and I am grateful to work with amazing, talented supervisors). I love how the department is almost the “behind the scenes” for CPS. I have learned way more than I expected. I have never edited a video before this internship. Now, video editing is one of my favorite things to do. One of my favorite parts of this internship was getting to work with the other interns in my department. Maya and Dymond are really talented individuals with unique perspectives. Working on projects with them has been super rewarding and fun. I recommend this program to anyone who wants to learn new skills and explore their interests.

Grow Our Own Student Intern with the Communications DepartmentMaya Banks
Grassfield High School, Senior
Communications Department

I’m Maya Banks. I joined the “Grow Our Own” internship program to gain more work experience and to learn more about digital design. I’ve enjoyed working with Sonika and Dymond on various projects and being able to learn from them as well. They are great and I’ve had lots of fun with them. My mentors are very skilled and have helped me learn about digital design, video editing, and social media posts. They’ve made sure I do my best and help us when we need them.  I plan on using these acquired skills through college and in my future career.

Grow Our Own Student Intern with the Communications Department

Dymond Dallas-Townsel
Western Branch High School, Junior
Communications Department

I have enjoyed working with fellow interns from the other schools. I didn’t know what the communications department would consist of, but it ended up being not so bad. Working with Maya and Sonkia has been a blast and they’ve become good friends of mine. 🙂

Grow Our Own Student Intern with the School Plants DepartmentJosh Streat
Grassfield High School, Senior

School Plants DepartmentThe Grow Our Own Internship was exactly what I was looking for. Since the schedule was flexible, I was able to complete my work without running into issues with any other activities I had planned for this summer. At School Plants, I was able to work with multiple departments. Some of these were Electrical, Carpentry, and Plumbing. I loved having this opportunity since I could see which I was most interested in. If I could change anything, I would prefer to work with the other interns through the entirety of the internship (we were mostly split up during the second week). Because of this internship, I now know that I love traveling and fixing problems!

Grow Our Own Student Intern with the Health DepartmentNora Holland-Farres
Grassfield High School, Senior
Health Department

I’ve enjoyed walking around the school asking teachers if they need help and assisting them with their lessons. My favorite part was helping the preschoolers with their letters and having a dance party with them. I also liked going to the Edwards Wilson Center where I learned the management side of health services. There I learned a lot from the people that worked there, especially Ms. Goff, where they shared stories and information on what it was like being a nurse.

Grow Our Own Student Intern with the Health DepartmentEmma Newcomb
Hickory High School, Junior
College and Career Readiness (CCR) Department

I really enjoyed the “Grow Our Own Program” because I have never gotten the opportunity to work in a clinic before. I knew I was interested in healthcare and science & medicine, but I had no idea what specific career path I wanted to pursue. Honestly, I was intimidated by the idea of anything career or college related. However, the internship really helped me explore the idea of being a nurse or working in the medical field. What I liked most about the “Grow Our Own Experience” was working with the students and being able to positively affect them. I also had an amazing clinic nurse & nursing student I got to work with and learn from. If I had to change any part of the experience, I would have liked the opportunity to go to different healthcare settings (nursing clinics, etc) so I could understand nursing from different viewpoints. I don’t know what job I will pursue in the future because there are so many different career paths in the medical field; however, this experience has really helped me feel more prepared for my future. 

Addison Shafley
Great Bridge High School, Junior
College and Career Readiness (CCR) Department

What I liked most about my experience was getting the chance to grow bonds with the students. Over the past few weeks, I’ve found myself laughing, cracking jokes, and having some of the most fun I’ve had in ages. This experience has definitely grown my love for working with kids and has made me realize that being a teacher may be a bigger part of my life. I hope that by the end of the week I can be a little part of the students’ memories because of this wonderful internship. 

This Internship has given me a chance to learn things about myself. In the past, I had done small summer camps with all ages, and that had been a lot of fun. Throughout these past weeks, I have figured out what ages of students I work better with and how to help them. I found with younger students, there could be a lot more emotion to the tiny things. With the older kids, I’ve gotten the chance to work with, I’ve found that they can laugh off mishaps and most importantly, learn from them. I look forward to the laughs, talks, and fun with my kids this next week.