BERNARDS TOWNSHIP, NJ -- Beginning Monday, 15 Ridge High School seniors will report for work at local businesses in the first community internships of a new program organized by the school.

They will work unpaid in the last weeks of their senior year with local firms in such areas as accounting, asset management, marketing, interior design, architecture, legal firms, a church and Bernards Township government, schools and police.

John Brum, a science teacher and the driving force of the program at Ridge, described the program May 13 to the Board of Education and the public, which included scores of red-shirted fellow teachers apparently there to remind the board of their interest in  ongoing contract negotiations.

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Brum said he was intrigued with the internship idea after a conversation he had three years ago with high school seniors in Darien, Conn. They told him seniors there were enthusiastic about the program, and hundreds of students at those schools participate in internships every year, he said.

Brum began researching the program at Connecticut schools in 2016-17 and presented his idea to the school board’s curriculum committee in November 2016. He received board approval in November 2017 for an initial program of 25 to 50 seniors.

In 2018 he introduced the program to faculty and seniors and solicited businesses as “hosts.” Brum said he was excited when 52 seniors picked up information packets, but only 30 applications were returned. Ultimately 15 were placed with hosts.

Students must have a minimum 2.0 GPA, with no grade lower than a C in the senior year. They should have met their course credits and community service requirements for graduation.

Students will work 25 to 30 hours a week, Monday through Friday, until June 13. They must keep a daily log of their activity and accomplishments and continue to keep their school commitments in studies, sports and clubs.

At program’s end, program organizers will survey and interview hosts, review the work logs and summarize recommendations for the administration.

The four-week internships will take place after AP exams are taken and before graduation, Brum said.

Training for the first “class” was held that day, Brum said. Seniors were taught such things as dress and appearance, cell phone usage at work, being on time and remembering they were representatives of Ridge High School, Brum said.

Brum said selected students have told him “I’m ready to go” and “can’t wait.” One student was told by her college-to-be that she will be able to move into a higher-level internship because of her participation in the Ridge program.