This summer I was one of 45 Putnam County student residents given the opportunity to intern with local government departments. As part of the Putnam Invests in Leaders of Tomorrow (P.I.L.O.T) Program students were selected from a competitive and record breaking pool of 120 applicants and placed in government departments based on their areas of study, experience and interests.
Established in 2013 by County Executive Odell, the program was designed to grant high school, college and graduate students opportunities to develop pre-professional experience and learn about potential career paths, all the while promoting young talent within the county.
As an upcoming senior at SUNY New Paltz, majoring in psychology with an interest in organizational behavior, I had the privilege of working with the County Executive’s Office and the Personnel Department. At the County Executive’s Office, I observed the responsibilities of an elected official and the requirements of managing the county; my function being to assist staff with their daily work demands. At Personnel, I witnessed the day-to-day coordination of the P.I.L.O.T program and assisted with employee onboarding. I also began working on a large collaborative project to establish legally up to date and accurate policy manuals and employee handbooks for the county.
Another one of the projects I worked on was alongside Grace Olivier conducting on-site interviews with current interns gaining insight into how the program could expand moving forward, whilst hearing what the students have gained from their experiences.
Sam Perri, senior at Harvard University, expressed her excitement for the opportunities she has been given interning with the Probation Department. Sam is writing her senior thesis on probation– the hands on experience of home-visits, observing in court and preparing reports on probationers has been invaluable. With aspirations to go into criminal law, the ability to connect the theoretical and practical roles of a parole officer has been extremely rewarding.
Sarah Smith, junior at Binghamton, had the opportunity to apply her knowledge of election law to the day to day functioning of the Board of Elections. As part of her placement Sarah spent time preparing election notices, and aiding with the ongoing preparation that occurs prior to an election. Sarah also had the unique experience of attending a naturalization ceremony where her purpose was to help new citizens register to vote.
As my internship with the P.I.L.O.T program comes to a close, I am extremely grateful that I was given the opportunity to be exposed to the inner workings of local government. The goal of an internship is to provide a realistic setting to evaluate one’s fit to a particular line of work, a benefit not awarded in the classroom alone. I was confronted with the reality that organizational behavior might not be the right path; however, this program has opened my eyes to many other potential career paths for exploration. A special thank you to the P.I.L.O.T program alongside the participating departments, as students like myself are encouraged to push themselves, evolve as individuals, and pursue work that is meaningful.
McKenzie Quinn, Pilot intern