Heather lights up the room. She walks into the space and it becomes naturally brighter. It’s impossible not to notice her confidence. With eyes firm on the horizon, she’s already taking the steps for propelling her promising career in a new direction. In short, Heather knows where she’s going.

She hadn’t quite nailed down her professional vision when she began working with us. She understood and embraced her love of history, and was working diligently in school to pursue that passion, but a clear pathway proved elusive.

Her museum internship helped her choose that path. She’ll work at a small museum, just like this one. She was impressed how directly we can impact the community and wants to do the same. Watching Heather go from cautious and quiet to an assertive, expressive, goal driven talent is a great example of why we taken such care building our Intern Program. I think of it as building a launch pad. Heather is one of the rocket-ships we’ve sent on their way.

Clarissa had just finished her undergrad when she applied to intern with us. Uncertain where life would take her next, she figured the museum would be a decent stopover to get her feet wet with a little research. Damp feet are fine, but we tossed her in the deep end instead. Smart, thoughtful, insightful, and with an intense ability to focus, we could already see she had the skills to do great work. She just needed the chance, the tools; the platform.

Clarissa catalogued, re-created archive file organization, researched a brand new exhibit, and then stepped up to help with media and events. Another rocket-ship, she launched from here into a full time library gig and beginning her graduate studies.

Steven stopped in recently to say hello after his graduation from ODU. Steven helped research our new exhibit on the the Wreck of the Dictator and the Norwegian Lady statues. Having never done any type of exhibit design, he decided to  also take a shot at developing how to present his tireless archival work. Discovering how design deepens your focus on the history, he’s opened his job search beyond being an archivist.

Alison had the same experience. A brilliant researcher, Ali took the lead on developing our exhibit on the Marine Electric disaster, extending the project to include how the tragedy gave birth to the USCG’s modern rescue swimmer program. With no experience, and a little bit of guidance, she took the project from from A to Z, including developing some exhibit tech skills, for she helped us install the exhibit in the museum’s main rescue gallery. Going further still, she was able to reach out to the dive team that explored Marine Electric, and secured artifacts from the ship to be loaned for inclusion in the exhibit.

Parks is an example of a young intern literally bringing the show with him. A high school student, Parks is an avid collector of military memorabilia and created his own Heroes of Hampton Roads project to interview local veterans. Parks shares his skill to help the museum develop our continuing Oral History Project. We recently shared Parks’ collection on a month long exhibit, with a highlighted event we called Veterans Appreciation Day.

We’ve reimagined, redesigned our intern program to offer a solid platform for aspiring professionals to experience a few very important things;

  • Real Work
  • Real Deadlines
  • The Flexibility to Make or Break Your Own Way.

It works.

It works because it was created by a rocket-ship; an amazing intern that stayed. A rocket-ship that, thankfully, chose to set her talent and energy aflame right here for a while.

Kasey Zronek walked into our door in 2015 wanting to intern. We had nothing posted. We had nothing available, but we liked her pluck and gave her a shot. She had a Masters degree and good job experience, but still hadn’t found a platform on which to truly develop her talent. We set her up with an oral history research project.

A year later, she became the Director of Education.

Kasey knew how important this opportunity was for her, and whole heartedly agreed with me that the museum should always be dedicated to offering that same real world experience and opportunity for others. She knew how a great internship can be a genuine career game-changer.

Since launching the program in 2017, our interns have developed three major museum exhibits, created numerous education programs, extended our important oral history work, re-created and redesigned our popular Ghost Walk tour and established several key elements of our visitor experience that have become standard practice. They’ve also helped design a host of new marketing materials, both print and digital, and in photography and videography.

Where are they going next? Kasey blasted off herself to a key role serving museums throughout the entire state of Indiana. Kristin is headed to finishing her PhD. Raleigh has her eyes on law school after she gets her degree. Camille is about to get her Masters in history. Brianna finished her design degree, and now pursues her post grad studies. Tylar started her own business, contracting her own video work with local companies. Megan is about to get her Masters from JMU. Jordan was chosen to represent CNU and the Luter School of Business as their “Best & Brightest” undergraduates of 2020. The list goes on.

Rocket-ships. Every one of them.

They are bright, brilliant, blazes of light when we watch them launch from our little pad. It’s hard to watch them go, sometimes. We’ve worked hard together. We did the long days, the late nights. We ate the cold pizza. We laughed so hard that it hurt. For me, both professionally and personally, it’s deeply emotional to watch the Rockets launch. But that’s the point. That’s why we built this platform.

I’ve accomplished many things I’m very proud of during my time as Museum Director. On the top of that list is the museum’s Internship Program. I personally consider it a top priority to continue to develop our interns to cultivate and mentor their talent, their vision, their extraordinary ability to launch into the world at full speed.

If one of them lands at your company, at your school, at your organization, hire them. Hire them immediately. Then give them the tools to succeed.

Then, please…please, do us this one favor:

Let them fly.