Interning at a public charter school: Before and during COVID-19.

Since August 2019, I’ve been interning at Harmony School of Excellence, a 6th-12th public charter school located 1.5 miles from St. Edward’s. It’s a part of the Harmony Public Schools system, where the Central Texas district is composed of seven schools. I decided to intern here because of the community the school serves, the proximity to St. Ed’s, and to explore my options. My hope is to apply the experience I’ve gained to teach abroad through the Peace Corps Response program after a gap year post-graduation.

My duties prior to the pandemic included assisting the history department with lesson planning, serving as a TA, helping administration with paperwork/contacting parents, and participating in the College Readiness and Leadership Program as a mentor. I especially enjoyed collaborating with the seniors as I did my best to support a small group through the college admissions process – something which I had experienced not too long ago. The student body is a largely disadvantaged one with 65% of students enrolled in a free/reduced lunch program and has a majority first-generation population. It was an educational experience seeing the resourcefulness of teachers and the commitment of staff members to create an environment where these students could engage in their interests.  An immediate difficulty that I had encountered while working at the school was engaging with students on an individual level in a way that encouraged them to keep asking questions. Being of relatively close age to the students yet them calling me “mister” was something that I still have not adjusted to, but it certainly helped establish boundaries and classroom dynamics. As the school year went by, my roles were much more defined and I began to adjust to my internship. Cue March 2020.

The pandemic significantly changed the work dynamic and my day-to-day duties. All staff members had to become increasingly flexible since the pandemic created new uncertainties that required us to step up and fulfill responsibilities we hadn’t considered previously. For me, this meant assisting the IT department with creating an inventory system for all distance learning technologies and creating a separate distribution system that would guarantee that these technologies would be accessible to all students, 6th-12th. These technologies were provided through the Emergency Connectivity Fund, Race To The Top grants, as well as other emergency grants that I helped file paperwork for. The pandemic had shifted my work to a more technology-based approach. From March 2020 to August 2021, school would be held remotely and I had very limited contact with students and teachers. The only students on campus during this time were those experiencing accessibility issues and other vulnerable students. Contact with my coworkers was limited to Zoom meetings and the occasional lunch break together. I attended the class of 2021 graduation ceremony, a class that had spent nearly half their high school experience online. I registered several young grads and their families through a non-profit dedicated to mobilizing the Latine vote. I would then spend the summer of 2022 doing a physical count of the distance learning technologies, enrolling them into the school system, contacting third-party insurance companies for faulty units, and organizing them so they would be ready to use for the coming year. The 2021-2022 school year has been a much-needed semblance of normalcy as the hallways are once again crowded with energetic middle and high schoolers. Students were excited to be with their peers and for the return of extracurricular activities. Since late January, I’ve been involved with the Drone club where I’m in charge of securing sponsorships for the two teams that compete for our school. Despite the two teams being in their first year, they have experienced well-deserved success in competition including being invited to compete in the 2022 REC Foundation Aerial Drones World Championship Event in Dallas, Texas. While the pandemic has required me to fill roles I had little experience in, it has enabled me to challenge myself in ways that I hadn’t previously expected.

Through the course of my internship, I’ve developed genuine and beneficial relationships with the staff, some even serving as mentors for me as I navigate my way through my final semesters. I have learned to adapt and work with people through difficult circumstances and have been able to apply some of what I learn in the classroom to the classes that I help TA. I’ve learned that I really enjoy working with communities and providing resources to create bridges for communities that need them. I never imagined myself helping plan high school graduation ceremonies during a pandemic or doing front office work when we experienced COVID-related staffing shortages. It’s been a fulfilling experience – one that has really pushed my ability to adapt.

Registering young voters and families at the graduation ceremony, May 2021

Graduation ceremony, May 2021

During the pandemic, I spent ample amount of time on inventory.

“The Red Suns” and “The Power Puff Girls” drone teams


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