MORRIS – Hailey Hoaglund will be starting her senior year at Morris Community High School this fall, but the teenager already has her sights set on a master’s degree.
Hoaglund said she dreams of becoming an engineer, like her father, and hopes her upcoming summer internship with Utility Concrete as an assistant project engineer will propel her toward a full-time career.
She is one of 17 local high school students or recent graduates interning with major companies through a Grundy County summer internship program.
“I thought it would be a good experience. It’s also good on a résumé. I want to be a groundbreaking engineer, so this is a great start as well as a good job,” Hoaglund said.
Aside from providing hands-on experience, several of the internships are paid, which is a bonus for students like Hoaglund, who would otherwise work a low-paying summer job.
“Why would I work at Burger King when I could work at an engineering place?” she said.
The internship program was founded last year by the Grundy Area Vocational Center and the Grundy Economic Development Council, with help from state Sen. Sue Rezin, R-Morris, local educators and a small group of local companies.
Founding members of the program gathered Wednesday morning at a breakfast to celebrate the program’s second year and welcome this summer’s interns.
“It’s been a great program. We’re growing every year,” GEDC Chief Executive Officer Nancy Norton Ammer said.
Five companies added internship programs this year, bringing the total to eight participating businesses. The number of students also increased, from 12 last year to 17 this year.
“We’re starting to really put a marriage together of students and companies,” GAVC director Lance Copes said.
Local educators and employers hope the program will entice students to stay in Grundy County. Ammer said too often, the county loses its best and brightest after they go away to college.
Rezin said on her tours of local industrial plants, several managers told her they were forced to hire engineers from 50 to 60 miles away, because they couldn’t find qualified candidates within Grundy County.
“I am convinced that we have the best vocational center in the state right here in this county,” Rezin said of GAVC. “And we have the industry that will use everybody that they’re educating, as well.”
Many of the students introduced Wednesday said they will be traveling to other states to start college in the fall. Ammer said the program provides a firsthand look at excellent career opportunities within Grundy.
“The first response when most kids come to our facility is, ‘Wow, I didn’t even know this was here,’” Aux Sable operations officer Jeff White said. “It just kind of opens their eyes.”
With more awareness of the program, internships were highly competitive this year. Copes said 178 applicants applied for positions in the program, but only 17 were chosen after a rigorous interview process.
Some of the students have started their jobs, like Kaitlin Friend from Morris Community High School, who is a marketing intern for Stormtrap.
“This is actually our first year in the internship program,” Stefanie Geiss, of Stormtrap, said. “Katie has been with us for about two weeks now and she’s done a great job. We’re lucky to have her.”
GAVC 2014 internship recipients and their schools
Aux Sable LP
• Lukas Terhall, Morris
• Michael Grayson, Minooka
• Jacob Beaudin, Minooka
• Kelly Kolotka, Morris
• Angel Dinelli, Morris
• Josie Hyslop, Gardner South Wilmington
• Molly Schultz, Gardner South Wilmington
• Brittany Jezik, Coal City
• Lauren Daniels, Gardner South Wilmington
• Clayton Labaj, Morris
• Thomas Luna, Minooka
• Alex Wills, Coal City
• Kaitlin Friend, Morris
US Cold Storage
• Samuel Allen, Morris
• Shannon Norton, Minooka
• Hailey Hougland, Morris
• Joseph Wiegmann, Minooka