McDaniel College junior Mollie Fischer walked from student to student in a fifth-grade classroom at Randallstown Elementary School in Baltimore County, providing support to students, who were given an assignment on the American Revolution requiring them to role-play as delegates in the Second Continental Congress.

Fischer, who aspires to work with students in a classroom setting once she finishes her degree in social work, received on-the-job experience this winter through a teaching internship at Randallstown Elementary School. She was one of 11 student interns from McDaniel who had the opportunity to work with a diverse population at the school.

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"Seeing what working through breaks is like and to be doing that is something that I think helps me with preparing for professional life and going into adulthood," Fischer said.

McDaniel's winter term, known as Jan Term, ended Friday, Jan. 22. Nearly 500 students registered for Jan Term this winter, with nearly 100 students doing an internship or independent study project.

One of the goals at McDaniel is to expose students to as many experiential learning opportunities as possible, said Connie Sgarlata, director of McDaniel's Center for Experience and Opportunity.

"It really helps them get hands-on learning that they really wouldn't necessarily get otherwise," Sgarlata said.

McDaniel's Center for Experience and Opportunity also offered a class over Jan Term called Landing that Internship, which coordinates internship opportunities for students with the goal of equipping students with the ability to sell their liberal arts education, Sgarlata said. For example, students learn how to get their resume together, do mock interviews and learn networking skills.

While students learn academic skills in the classroom, internships and other experiential learning opportunities allow them to apply those skills to real life, Sgarlata said.

Randallstown Elementary School

Fischer, a Westminster resident, was assigned to assist fifth-grade teacher Amanda Gill, who has students with a variety of needs. Some students are enrolled in the English for Speakers of Other Languages program, while others may be Special Education students.

"The sooner you get that kind of experience the more you can learn from it," Gill said. "It helps with classroom management because all their needs are just so different."

The internship is mutually beneficial, Gill said. Teachers can always use an extra hand in the classroom, and students like Fischer have the opportunity to gain an understanding of what it takes to successfully manage a classroom and meet a variety of student needs, she said.

"She's been great; she took a lot of initiative. She's never sitting down — she's always walking around, she's always helping," Gill said.

Fischer, who had the opportunity to plan and teach her own lesson, was also tasked with helping students with questions, ensuring students were on task and overseeing the classroom in Gill's absence, she said.

"This has been the greatest internship I've ever done in my life," Fischer said, who has done other internships before.

Her 10-year-old student Denais Garcia said he will miss Fischer when she's gone.

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"She helps a lot," he said shyly.

Downstairs, junior Michaela Stitely was working with a class of 24 kindergartners to fulfill a degree requirement for her elementary education minor.

"It's definitely different, as in the cultural diversity," Stitely said. "I've really enjoyed it; it's been tough working with these students because some of them don't have good home lives, but it's been good to have students from different backgrounds to work with, and find out different ways to get through to them."

Stitely, a North Carroll High School graduate who grew up in Hampstead, said she doesn't plan to stay in Carroll County for the rest of her life.

"Just to see something else has been great," she said. "It's very helpful for deciding a career path; it's made me 100 percent sure of what I want to do."

Cold weather shelter

Not far from McDaniel's campus in Westminster, McDaniel senior Tara Sullivan spent evenings for the past three weeks at the Cold Weather Shelter, a center open during the coldest months of the year for homeless people, where she had previously volunteered for service-learning.

As an intern, she was responsible for organizing volunteers, providing people with clothing and other necessities, setting up tables for meals and checking people into the shelter, among other duties.

Sullivan, who majors in social work, said she is undecided about which population she would like to work with for her career. But working at the shelter has helped.

"I really love the people and the atmosphere," Sullivan said of the shelter, which serves about 35 to 40 clients a night. "The cold weather population has been great to work with, just because of the variety of people that you see; all different ages and backgrounds, so I think it's helping guide me toward which populations I prefer."

Sullivan said she would recommend the internship to other students who want to work one-on-one serving clients.

"To me, I need internships, I need volunteering to see what I want to do," said Sullivan, who plans to pursue a master's degree in social work.

Her supervisor Clare Kazyak, program coordinator for the Cold Weather Shelter, said Sullivan has been a huge help for the shelter.

"She's been a wonderful help for our volunteers," Kazyak said.

Lehigh County jail

Psychology major Adrienne Nichols spent the winter term as an intern at Lehigh County Jail, not far from her hometown of Allentown, Pa.

Nichols said she heard about the internship opportunity through an employee at the prison. It sounded like a unique experience, she said.

"I thought the three weeks my school allows for Jan Term was the perfect amount of time to do something like this," Nichols said. "Walking in, I didn't know if I would love it or if I would hate it; it gave me the perfect amount of time to explore something totally different without making a long-term commitment."

Nichols, a junior, spent each day of the three weeks shadowing case managers, participating in support groups in different housing units and teaching classes to inmates.

"I really loved it; every day was different," Nichols said. "I could see myself in some of the jobs I was exposed to."

Nichols said for her it was an eye-opening experience.

"From the first day, it just totally changed my perspective on jails and criminals," she said. "It's not like the portrayal of jails you see in the movies. These are real people with families and jobs — I'm not saying what they did is OK, but they are people."

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