Primed To Learn about Work

Primed To Learn about Work

Summer school program matches students with potential careers.

Julia Payne spent a week of her summer calling local restaurants asking them if they would like to hand out coasters and condoms for World Aids Day. She said this with a laugh, remarking on how some people had interesting responses to that offer.

This would otherwise be an unusual way to spend the summer days, except that she was interning at Fenwick Clinic in the Arlington Public Health Department.

“I learned about food codes in Arlington and about the process for shutting down restaurants. Also even if restaurants look nice on the outside they be be breaking a ton of codes,” she said. This four-week learning experience was acquired through an Arlington Public Schools’ program called PRIME (Professional Related Intern/Mentorship Experience).

The internship program allows high school students who have been identified as gifted to be placed in professional workplaces as interns for four weeks during the summer. The program started in the early ‘80s by Rosalie Arnold. It began as an enrichment program for six to 10 students and took place during the school year.

When Becki O’Loughlin joined the PRIME team in 2004 it started expanding. In the last 10 years the program has grown to 30-40 students and has started offering students internships for the summer. For the summer program, they started PRIME field trips where the students come together and visit or listen to speakers from other jobs in Arlington. These trips contribute to the overall goal of teaching the students about different job opportunities and give them time to discuss with fellow interns about where they are working.

O’Loughlin, who helps run the program, says the best part about PRIME is the interaction between students and adults. The interns are thrown into the professional working world and gain experience in how offices are run, what daily life in the working world is like, and possibly narrowing down what they want to pursue a career in. She loves seeing the students excited about their jobs and hearing about what they are doing while watching them learn and grow even in the short time span of one month.

She was rewarded recently for her work with PRIME. When this year’s interns were visiting the Arlington courthouse, one of the men working there recognized O’Loughlin from when he participated in PRIME a few years ago. He interned at the courthouse while in the program and now works there. She was beyond pleased to see how PRIME could have such an impact on participants’ lives.

This years interns had two field trip days. They toured the Arlington Courthouse and jail and had a speaker from Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization (CPRO) talk to them about urban renewal. Payne said the field trips have taught her a lot about Arlington and have given her more pride in her county. She also enjoyed being with other interns and hearing about their experiences at their individual jobs.

Mariah Bowman, who’s working at Suited for Change, said she enjoyed learning about Arlington zoning laws and how criminals are treated. The field trips open students eyes to different job opportunities.

Harry Spits is interning at Ehlert Bryan Consulting Structural Engineers. He has enjoyed seeing how buildings are assembled. He works day-to-day with computer models and composes construction details. He is deciding whether he wants to be an architect or an engineer.

Celeste Meadows is working at Public Health, the Department of Human Services for Arlington County. She shadows different people in the department, writes research essays and attends meetings. She has loved learning about nursing and public health. Most students decided to do an internship to give them experience in a job to see if that is what they would like to pursue a career in.

The students apply to PRIME by completing a form found online at, and, after an interview, work with the PRIME faculty to find a place of work that fits with their interests. Student must be at least 16 years old and provide their own transportation.

The writer participated in PRIME as an intern with The Connection.