Published : Monday, September 21, 2015 | 3:00 PM
In 2012, then-president of the Fathers Club John Johnson (father of Jake ’12, Chelsea ’14 and Courtney ’19) and other members of the Fathers Club recognized an issue of supply and demand. Johnson, an executive and co-founder of the investment firm The Spartan Group, saw that college-age alumni need solid internship experience to help them narrow down a career path. Parents in our community have a near-infinite supply of knowledge, contacts and resources in the fields most interesting to alumni. Why not meet the alumni demand with a network of Prep parents?
From there, the Fathers Club Internship Program was born. The Fathers Club website contains an impressive array of resources, from forms to step-by-step instructions for alumni (http://www.prepfathersclub.org/supporting-flintridge-prep/mentoring/). One page offers sound advice on resumes and professional behavior that should be required reading for every job seeker, created by David Hitchcock (father of Kate ’18) and the program’s co-chair, Chris Kersting (father of Kate ’13 and Sarah ’16).
Additionally, for alumni up to ten years out of Prep, the Alumni Office and the Fathers Club collaborate on career networking events for GOLD (Graduates of the Last Decade) alumni. The first event was held on campus on December 26, 2014, after sports day and before reunions. Kersting says, “It was wonderful how parents responded to our invitation to come talk about their professions to grads. I was terrified that it would be like a junior high dance, with the parents on one side and the alums on the other. But like typical Prep kids they stepped up and everyone got a lot out of it.”
Cathy Heflin (mother of Sophie ’14) is a financial advisor with Merrill Lynch. She also helps the Fathers Club match applicants with programs, saying, “It’s a small enough program that we can customize it.
“We are hoping to open kids’ eyes to what’s out there – some incredible opportunities,” says Heflin. “And, employers who have had Prep kids in the past two years want us to find them more. They say our alumni are poised, accomplished and able workers. It’s great to be able to deepen a life-long connection to Prep for alumni and parents alike.”
Kaelin King ’13, who interned through the Fathers Club’s program at DineEquity in the summer of 2015, got a memorable assignment: presenting the PowerPoint about her project to the company CEO, Julia Stewart (mother of Alec Greenawalt ’15).
“This is a great way to help out young alumni,” says King, who will graduate from Lafayette College in Pennsylvania in 2017. “Going to school on the east coast, it is hard to find west coast connections. Prep Exchange allows me to have a network in California and create even more opportunities.”
Building Prep for Life
Kersting says that the actual job experiences are secondary to building a network. “Experiencing the work culture for the first time is a huge win, but to be able to create relationships is the real goal. These connections can last for years, fostered by alums who can say ‘Can we meet for coffee?’ or ‘Thanks so much for the interview.’ We are here to help young people see the path, help them with good communications etiquette, good business etiquette, and great connections.”
King learned that lesson well. “I learned to talk to as many people as I could, not only to have a positive workplace, but for networking. You never know who or how someone can help you in the future unless you get to know them,” she says.
Training the Trainers
No matter whether it’s a single day or an entire summer, Kersting says, “The Alumni Internship Program is time-intensive for everyone. We like to recruit and train our volunteer hosts, and then we expect our hosts to spend time creating meaningful programs for interns. And we expect interns to do the work, finding and applying for the programs they want.”
Kersting says the Fathers Club coaches execs on how to create Career Windows—short-term, pre-internships. Using hypothetical exercises, hosts give interns exposure to a discrete aspect of a business that is easy to integrate into a busy work environment—and easy to put on a resume.
Albert Lau (parent of Sydney ‘19) is Chief Audit Executive at East-West Bank. He created a three-week Career Windows program with the Fathers Club’s help that gives two students at a time—rising college sophomores—experience that they can use in the short-term—and forever.
“They do a project that they can put on their resume in an area of their interest—operations, marketing, investing. They do PowerPoint presentations to hone their speaking skills. I teach them corporate etiquette—how to dress, how to eat, how to shake hands. They shadow me to all kinds of meetings and we debrief.”
After their three weeks with him, Lau acts as both resource and referral for alums as they progress on their career paths, as interns and beyond. “The Prep alumni were fabulous young adults…quick learners, respectful, with great attitudes. Of course, they can have a conversation about anything—and now, maybe they understand a little bit about the corporate world.”
These programs can have benefits for sponsors too, says Kersting, who has sponsored paid interns at SEMA, where he is CEO. “The process of engaging your team before your intern steps through the door can be really fun and creative. Then when your intern brings in new ideas, it’s invigorating.”
Want an Internship? Want Interns?
To find out more about how you can provide an internship experience for Prep’s finest students and alumni, or if you’re seeking an internship experience of your own, please contact Colleen Bissner, Co-Director of Alumni Relations at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Flintridge Preparatory School, 4543 Crown Avenue, La Cañada Flintridge, (818) 790-1178 or visit www.flintridgeprep.org.