Tessa Waidelich, a recent graduate of Eastern Mennonite University, says she wasn’t sure exactly what she wanted to do after college.
But after spending just 10 weeks in EMU’s Washington Community Scholars’ Center working in the information technology field as an intern, she not only had the confidence to know what she wanted to do, but a full-time job as well.
Waidelich says vocational development was a big part of her successful experience. WCSC staff assessed “my needs and wants” and “found an internship that gave me a wide variety of work.”
Along with her internship and coursework, Waidelich worked on her resume, prepared for interviews, and started job-hunting. But it was her connections through her internship that made the difference.
“The most helpful preparation I received during WCSC was the concept of networking,” she said. “Networking and forming relationships in a job setting is the reason I was hired.”
So that she could gain more diverse experience, Waidelich’s internship supervisor decided to place her with a client. Briya Public Charter School is a two-generation education site, offering English classes for adults and early childhood education for their children. It’s a holistic and inclusive model that strengthens families as they learn together.
Waidelich’s work included resetting, cleaning and setting up computers, as well as arranging desks and fixing broken computers. She built relationships with both her IT company team and the staff at Briya, which eventually led to a job offer to become the school’s IT support specialist.
She enjoys a variety of work, from helping students and staff with their tech needs to inventorying computers and managing paperwork.
Waidelich’s experience is not unusual at WCSC, a program well-known for providing students with a kickstart to their careers.
“We take very seriously the goal of supporting our students in discerning their next steps and building the skills and connections needed to take those steps,” said program director Ryan Good. “It’s extremely validating for us as WCSC staff to see somebody like Tessa come in with uncertainty about their direction, put in the effort and work to figure it out, and then come out the other end with a job.”
WCSC has been located in Washington D.C. for over 45 years. Each year staff place 30-40 students from EMU and partner institutions in competitive internships spanning many fields and majors.