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PHS Internship Program Expanding

Halfway through its second decade, the Portland High School internship program is setting a record for the number of students participating in internships. The program also has a number of new business partners. 

Nearly 50 students are participating this year, an increase of 16 students or 47 percent compared to last year. On any given day, a PHS student might be conducting biological research, fixing computers, helping do graphic design for a nonprofit, assisting with screen printing or sewing in a professional theater’s costume shop. This is all thanks to the PHS internship program, now in its 16th year. Students complete 40-hour internships over the course of the school year, going to their host sites two to four hours per week. They earn high school elective credit for completing the internship. This year, they also are able to earn a $500 stipend, thanks to a partnership with JMG (Jobs for Maine’s Graduates).

New partnerships this year include internship opportunities with Bigelow Labs, Irwin Morris Law Firm, Bailey Renee Fashion and the University of Southern Maine Computer Science Department. 

A wide variety of students complete internships. Participants mirror the school’s demographic data in terms of multilingual status, special education status, and race. 

Internships are part of the school’s Extended Learning Opportunities (ELO) program, which provides career exploration programming and opportunities for learning outside of the traditional classroom, including job shadows, field trips, guest speakers, and after-school programs. For example, medical students from the University of New England recently presented to classes about cardiology, and students were able to try out stethoscopes and even got to examine a pig’s heart!

One example of a student who has taken full advantage of the ELO program is Ricardo Mbucu, a driven and multi-talented Portland High student. When he lived in Brazil, he was a professional model and graphic designer, and he wanted to continue that when he came to the United States.

Ricardo was able to shadow a professional model during a photo shoot for the L.L. Bean catalog. After connecting with WCKD Collective, Ricardo participated in several photoshoots to build his portfolio and connect with several local photographers and designers. Ricardo was then signed by a local modeling agency. He participated in his first professional fashion show with Char McGee of The Pink Dollhouse after being connected to her by ELO Coordinator Andrea Levinsky.

McGee told Levinsky: “I wanted to thank you for the opportunity to work with Ricardo. He has been absolutely amazing and I look forward to working with him in the future on his endeavors.” Ricardo is also doing a graphic design internship with the Greater Portland Community Land Trust, combining his interest in graphic design and building.

PHOTOS: (TOP) Medical students from the University of New England encourage PHS students to examine a pig’s heart during a cardiology presentation.

(BELOW) PHS student Ricardo Mbucu works on his professional modeling portfolio. Pictured modeling are Ricardo and Chadai Gatembo.

For more information and to connect with students, contact Andrea Levinsky, PHS Extended Learning Opportunities Coordinator, at levina@portlandschools.org.

The Portland Public Schools is Maine’s largest school district, with approximately 6,500 students, and is also the most diverse. About one-third of the district’s students come from homes where languages other than English are spoken—a total of more than 50 languages. 49.8 percent of the district’s students are white and 50.2 percent are students of color. Approximately half of PPS students qualify for free or reduced-price school meals.