Mount Vernon interns

Erin Nielson (left) and Rene Serrano-Pacheco are taking part in an internship program offered by the Mount Vernon School District.

MOUNT VERNON — This summer, 17-year-old Mount Vernon High School students Erin Nielson and Rene Serrano-Pacheco worked their first summer jobs — filing, copying and visiting construction sites.

“It’s a hands-on job,” Serrano-Pacheco said. “I feel like I’m actually being productive.”

For about four hours each day, the soon-to-be high school seniors have learned as interns for the Mount Vernon School District some of what it takes to operate a school district.

“They give us stuff we can actually do,” Serrano-Pacheco said. “And we learn how to do new stuff.”

As part of its 100% graduation goal, the district two years ago began looking for ways to give high school students paid internship positions, including through the district and the city of Mount Vernon.

“We want to provide them with skills and practice for the workforce,” said Celina Rodriguez, the district’s spokeswoman.

Because the district was asking community partners to take on interns, it felt it was important to do so itself, Superintendent Carl Bruner said.

“When students are engaged in employment opportunities, that’s when they develop soft skills,” Bruner said.

Aside from Nielson and Serrano-Pacheco, the district hired 11 other interns to assist its capital projects department, which is spending much of the summer putting finishing touches on the newly remodeled Madison Elementary School and helping the staff of both that school and Harriet Rowley Elementary School move into their new homes.

“They’re doing jobs that need to be done that we would have to hire out otherwise,” Bruner said.

At Harriet Rowley Elementary last week, Nielsen and Serrano-Pacheco helped Principal Patricia Shanander get the school’s office ready — filing forms and helping create displays showing the building’s emergency plans.

“For the students, it’s learning how to take direction, how to see the vision of the task,” Shanander said.

The students found the opportunity to bring their skills to the table exciting.

“I like working in an office setting,” Nielsen said. “I’m someone who likes to problem solve.”

To participate in the internships, the students had to apply and go through an interview process, Rodriguez said. Those who weren’t selected as interns were invited back to get feedback on their interviewing skills.

— Reporter Kera Wanielista: 360-416-2141,, Twitter: @Kera_SVH,

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