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Nine Annapolis High Schoolers will intern at City Hall this summer as part of Young Agents of Change program

A six-week pilot internship program at City Hall will provide a diverse group of nine rising seniors from Annapolis High School with knowledge of city government and valuable work experience.

The program, called “Young Agents of Change,” commenced Tuesday and continued Wednesday and Friday as the interns reported to City Hall for their week of in-person orientation. The program is part of Mayor Gavin Buckley’s One Annapolis initiative, which is geared toward community outreach.

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Interns were required to wear masks and abide by social distancing guidelines during orientation meetings and other events throughout the week. According to city spokeswoman Mitchelle Stephenson, the City Council chambers, where these meetings were held, is large enough for the program coordinators and their interns to be sufficiently distanced from each other.

Orientation included an in-depth course of city government functions and internship etiquette, topics that aren’t covered in Annapolis High School’s government curriculum, which is focused more on state and federal government functions, said Conrad Buchheister, an Annapolis High School teacher who coordinated the internship program under a contract from the city.

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As a teacher, Buchheister said he’s noticed disparities between students of different demographics within the school, and he wanted to provide an opportunity to traditionally disenfranchised populations to help address systemic racism within the community.

He added that honors students at Annapolis High School are often overshadowed by students in the International Baccalaureate (IB) or AP programs and wanted to provide an opportunity to honor students who may be overlooked.

Buchheister said equity was his main focus when selecting the nine interns, all of whom were in his honors world history course.

“It’s my duty, as a teacher, as a person in a position of power, to create an opportunity for kids that are traditionally overlooked,” he said.

The group of interns comprises five Black students, three Hispanic students and one white student. There are five women and four men in the group. Buchheister said the demographic make-up of the group resembles that of the honors classes he teaches at Annapolis High School.

Sydney Scott, an intern who eventually wants to work as a nurse, said she chose to intern in local government this summer to see its inner workings, especially during a time of national social upheaval and stark political divide.

“I am a minority… [with everything] going on around us, I just want to get involved with the government,” she said.

Buchheister began brainstorming last summer with staff from the mayor’s office a way for his students to learn firsthand the inner workings of city government. The original plan was for city government officials to visit the school, but the idea eventually morphed into the plans for an internship program. Buchheister said recent events catalyzed the work to finalize the program for this summer.

“The impetus that I think started the fire up again was the whole entire George Floyd incident,” he said. “That got us all back to the table, because we want to see positive changes in our community.”

Buchheister said the goal of the program is to provide interns with knowledge of local history, an understanding of the functions of city government and work experience that will be beneficial when applying to colleges and future jobs.

Next week, interns will be interviewed to determine the department that aligns with their area of interest, according to Stephenson, public information officer for the mayor’s office.

Focus areas for the interns include law, finance, public safety, communications and Information Technology, according to a press release.

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The tasks and responsibilities that each intern has will depend on the department they are assigned to. Stephenson said the intern assigned to her department will likely assist with social media and video projects — assignments that Stephenson said will allow the interns to work from home.

Once the interns are assigned to their respective departments, they will work with their supervisors to determine a schedule that will include both in-person and remote tasks, said Stephenson.

Stephenson said the program will not likely spend the total of its $25,000 budget, and that leftover funding could be used to continue the program in future years. The funding will be used to pay for field trips, to pay Buchheister and to pay the interns the state minimum wage, $10.10 per hour, for at least 10 hours of work per week, according to Buchheister.

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