Recess is not included in most Mercersburg Academy schedules, but a few students are participating in the outdoor fun as interns at a local elementary school.
Helping at recess is only part of how the students assist teachers at Mercersburg Elementary School.
While sharing books, tutoring, and directing playground games, the high school students form relationships and gain valuable work experience through the program offered by the Community Engagement Internship Program. This is the first group of interns to participate in the program since the pandemic.
“I hope the students see this as a unique opportunity to engage with the children and teachers of our community," said Director of Community Engagement Emily Parsons P ’21, ’22, ’26, a history faculty member. “When coming up with the internship proposal, I aimed to get our students into the community in a real-world working situation.”
Paula Luruena Marquez ’23 (Madrid, Spain) was at the elementary school recently, working with students in Ashley Maurer’s second-grade class.
“She’s always very helpful,” said Maurer, noting that Luruena Marquez took initiative as she assisted the children with research on their historical figure reports. “She was really helping kids find information. She understood where help was needed rather than just sitting back.”
From asking students about their favorite books to leading them through games on the playground, Luruena Marquez connected well with the children.
“Whenever I come here, I come out in a better mood,” Luruena Marquez said. “I feel better about myself.”
Luruena Marquez, who plans to attend Tulane University in New Orleans, LA, is interested in psychology and wants to learn more about child behavior.
“I love being with kids,” Luruena Marquez said. “We have the same mentality. I love to play. I get to see how kids develop over time.”
Her experience at the elementary school during winter term has been valuable, and she feels positive about the connections she has made.
“The people here are so welcoming, super nice,” she said, referring to the elementary school staff. “I thought it was an amazing opportunity to help at the elementary school and learn how to educate children, as well as see their behavior develop over time. Being part of the kids’ lives ultimately makes me feel more connected to the town we live in.”
Tri Nguyen ’24 (Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam) said talking and working with the children was an enjoyable experience because “they would say the silliest things, and it would make me laugh.”
He said he also appreciated the teachers, not only for their ability to work with the children, but also for how they made the interns feel comfortable.
“I am thankful to have been given this opportunity,” Nguyen said. “It was a great experience and probably the best PGA I will ever have.”
Abby Hann ’23 (McConnellsburg, PA) said the opportunity to be with children is what drew her to the internship.
“I enjoyed the connection I made with the kids while being at the elementary school,” Hann said. “It was a great way to get me through the week.”
The internship provides an opportunity for Mercersburg Academy students to connect with the town of Mercersburg, said Ian Kim ’23 (Houston, Texas).
“My experience at the elementary school has been transformative, and I think what I’ve most enjoyed is connecting with the Mercersburg community in a way I couldn’t possibly have done without this internship,” Kim said. “The experience I’ve had in this internship has exceeded everything I could’ve anticipated. I’ve enjoyed every facet of it. From helping the kids learn and watching how they work out problems, to seeing how the teachers interact with their students and how I, as a tutor, could learn from the way they teach, it was all incredibly eye-opening for me.”
The internship program goals include providing real-world work experiences for students, helping students understand the unique challenges and opportunities within a small, public elementary school, engaging in the community through service and work, and promoting mutual understanding between the school and the town.
“I wanted them to be independent, kind, and thoughtful with their work,” said Parsons, noting that she hopes the program can be offered each term. “They have far exceeded my expectations. This group of interns has established meaningful relationships with both the students and the teachers. I’m really proud of the work that they've done this winter.”
Pictured: As part of Mercersburg Academy's Community Engagement Internship Program, Paula Luruena Marquez ’23 (Madrid, Spain) works with students at Mercersburg Elementary School.