MANCHESTER, N.H. – Kim Carter sits in a windowless office in the set of rooms that comprise the MC2-Manchester school, where 81 students, 51 in high school, 30 in middle school, congregate down the hallway from the Parole and Corrections board. Although she runs two schools and the foundation that oversees them, she spends most of her time in the Manchester school.
“I feel like I have two children and one needs more of my help,” she said.
Carter is the founder and CEO of two Making Community Connections, (MC2) schools, both of which require several twice-a-week internships as an integral part of their programs. The other school, called MC2-Monadnock, is in Keene, New Hampshire, about 50 miles away. There, the community has rallied to provide internships that closely align with the competency standards that the students are trying to meet at school.
But in Manchester, Carter freely acknowledges, most of the internships are not up to the same standards as those in Keene. That makes it difficult to fulfill her vision that working at actual jobs with adults in the community will help students learn their competencies.
As an intern in a relative’s nail salon, for example, Summer Adams found that her main activity was often observing. “Everyone was really very busy,” she said. “There was not a lot of time to talk to me.”
One Manchester internship stands out as an exception: Brutus’ Auto Repair and Service. A teacher, MC2 math specialist Laurie Service, ensures that the students in this internship are acquiring the correct math skills. And the Brutus folks have gone an extra step, as well, occasionally offering to put MC2 students through postsecondary trade school while they work full-time for the shop.
Earlier this year, the Brutus Auto internship was one of three in which students were participating, out of 15 being offered. Over time, the MC2-Manchester school has had about 38 internship possibilities. But at the same time earlier this year, at MC2-Monadnock in Keene, 40 of the school’s students were actively engaged in internships, with 78 community partners set up to receive interns. The school has 83 students.
“It has a lot to do with the community we’re in,” Carter said of the disparity. “We just don’t get the same kind of interest.”
Asked why it was more difficult to arrange internships in Manchester than in Keene, New Hampshire’s assistant education commissioner, Paul Leather, said it was the first he’d heard of this issue at MC2. But he said it was probably because in Keene, the school is located in “much more of community-based situation, whereas in Manchester it’s more of a business environment. There are different concerns in Manchester like safety and transportation.” Most of Manchester’s high school students do not receive free school transportation.
Also, Manchester is the biggest city in New Hampshire, a state that transitioned fully to competency-based education in 2005, and many other schools there use internships as part of their programs. And students in several area colleges also seek those opportunities. “Kim’s in a larger pool here,” Leather said.
As the search for more internships continues outside of the school, Carter and her staff encourage each student individually within the school’s walls. “All learning is personal,” she said. “There are many paths to get there.”