WCC student turns internship into career

By on August 2, 2013

SUGAR GROVE—All education, especially higher education, is designed to prepare you for something, whether that be a career, a better quality of life or both. When students participate in an internship, that preparation becomes more focused and the line to a career more direct, as in the case of recent Waubonsee Community College graduate Kimberly Young of Sandwich. She was able to turn a two-semester internship at the Aurora Area Interfaith Food Pantry into a permanent position, and in the process, has been named Waubonsee’s Featured Student for July.

Young is no stranger to working hard and making the most of opportunities. After graduating from Hinckley-Big Rock High School in 1995, she went to work right away at Paws Painting, a house painting company her mother owned.

“There was no college education fund for me, so I had to pay my bills and be independent,” Young said.

That meant using the Certified Nurse Assistant (CNA) training she picked up at the Indian Valley Vocational Center while still in high school to secure a second job at a nursing home.

Things were going well until the housing market went south. Young, who at the time was a single mother, needed more than just a few painting jobs and CNA work to support herself and her son. Plus, the nature of the work was taking its toll.

“I wanted to switch careers and get into something less manual,” Young said. “Those are hard careers that you can’t do your whole life because your body says ‘enough.’ I wanted to be able to go to work clean and come home clean.”

When she decided to go to college in the fall of 2011, Young said Waubonsee was her first and only choice. Still, she had some reservations.

“Being that I was older, I was afraid I would stick out like a sore thumb,” Young said. “That was not true at all. Once I got into class, there were always other parents and adults working to get an education. My nervousness was short-lived, and I felt very comfortable.”

Young was still a bit uncomfortable with math classes and computers, but she quickly found help in the form of Waubonsee staff members. A counselor recommended a self-paced math course that worked for Young, while Associate Professor of Administrative Office Systems Karen Baston taught Young all she needed to know about computers.

“I didn’t even know how to save something to a flash drive when I started, but then Karen taught us click-by-click,” Young said.

Young was starting to master computer hardware and software skills through her administrative office systems coursework, and she got a chance to apply that knowledge in fall 2012 when she applied for and got a 3-credit-hour internship at the Aurora Area Interfaith Food Pantry, where she worked as the administrative assistant to the executive director.

“My family had gone to a food pantry sometimes when I was young; that was how my mom fed us sometimes, so I felt connected to the cause,” Young said. “It was really natural for me; I felt at home there. Plus, you want to give back after you’ve been helped.”

Not only was Young able to give back and gain experience during her internship, she was also able to earn some money thanks to the Illinois Cooperative Work Study Program, sponsored by the Illinois Board of Higher Education. As a program participant, Waubonsee is able to use grant funds to reimburse employers who offer paid internships.

“Kim’s internship with the food pantry was a great collaboration and a good model of how things should work,” said Teri Cullen, Waubonsee Career Services manager.

Given that the pantry has a relatively small staff, Young has been able to help on a variety of projects, including creating spreadsheets and databases, keeping up with thank-yous and other correspondence, and organizing events.

“In my internship I learned how to interact with a boss and how to strengthen my organizational skills,” Young said. “Plus, there are all these things that have to be done, so you have to prioritize.”

Young must have proved herself, because the fall internship became a second spring internship, and then she was offered and accepted the job on a permanent basis.

“Kim ended up being hired, and you can’t ask for much more than that from an internship,” Cullen said.

Two years after starting her college career, Young now has a job in her chosen field and an Administrative Assistant Associate in Applied Science Degree. She is proof that going back to school can move life forward.