Alumni Spotlight: D214 Internship inspires career path for Buffalo Grove graduate
The phrase “Redefining Ready!” is familiar to many Township High School District 214 students, displayed on posters and banners throughout its six schools. It’s far more than an alliterative slogan; the District has taken many steps to ensure its students are prepared for their steps after high school, most notably through its work-based learning programs.
These programs set students up in positions to participate in professional work environments, developing career skills before they even enter the workforce or invest time and money into postsecondary education or training.
For Rachel Sowa, a University of Notre Dame freshman and a 2020 Buffalo Grove High School graduate, that meant interning at LocalMed, a company that connects dental workers with their clients through their online interfaces. Sowa assumed a wide range of responsibilities, according to LocalMed Marketing Assistant Emily Dunkin. Her main work involved the business development team, as well as some work with the marketing team.
“She helped us with social media,” Dunkin said. “We went to several events that we sell at, so she helped us in making sure we had the right supplies for those.”
For Sowa, it was a chance to test her interest in business. “I never really had hands-on experience in a business environment, and I wanted to make sure that this is a career path that I wanted to go into,” Sowa said last spring. “By taking an internship, I knew I would be able to get that hands-on experience and learn about what business is truly about.”
In addition to the internship, Sowa was enrolled in a variety of business-related courses at Buffalo Grove and participated in DECA, an entrepreneurship group that competes at the regional, state and national levels. As is often the case, her work-based experience, classroom work and co-curricular activities all complemented one another. For example, Sowa said her use of Google Sheets in her Financial Accounting class at Buffalo Grove prepared her to use Google Sheets to organize client information at LocalMed.
“That actually really helped directly translate over to where I had to use exactly what I learned in class at my internship,” Sowa said last spring. “Meanwhile, my internship really helped to increase my confidence, because I was able to determine that this is what I’m passionate about.”
But it was not only Sowa who reaped rewards from the partnership. Dunkin said their firm benefitted from having Rachel on board with them.
“It’s fun to see how technologically handy students in high school are, because they pick up on things super quickly,” Dunkin said. “So while it’s fun to teach them as much as we can, they usually end up teaching us something too.”
How pleased was LocalMed with Sowa’s work? Enough to hire her over the summer as a part-time employee where she continued working, mainly in sales. Sowa now says that compounded the internship’s value. “I was able to further develop skills such as time management, accountability, and efficiency,” she said. “It's been such an amazing experience! I'm planning on working there over my winter break and for future summers, as well.”
Now at Notre Dame, Sowa reflects on the ongoing value of an internship - even one disrupted by pandemic.
“My business internship at LocalMed taught me a variety of skills that I can utilize in college and beyond. I was able to see how the various internal departments work together,” Sowa now says. “For example, I had the opportunity to work with both the marketing and the sales team. That hands-on experience helped me to decipher that I'm interested in the social aspect of sales. Based on that discovery, I've decided to pursue a management consulting major at Notre Dame where I'd be able to work with a variety of firms one-on-one in a more personal manner.”
To learn more about District 214’s Internship Program, and how you can get involved, go to https://www.discover214.org/internships.
Sriman Narayanan and Connor Wielgos are graduates of Buffalo Grove High School. They authored this post as part of their own Internship experience in Communications with District 214’s Community Engagement and Outreach Department.