Red Bank Charter School intern Maya Ghosh at work at Paint A Tee on Monmouth Street. Below, Amanda Annaruma in the laundry room at Hair & Company, on White Street. (Photos by Lola Todman. Click to enlarge)

Red Bank Charter School Intern

For most middle school students, 2:45 to 3:45 p.m on Thursday afternoon is just another class, or time to head home or to sports practice. You wouldn’t expect to see them downtown at a salon, working, but that hour is exactly when you will find Red Bank Charter School student Amanda Annaruma at Hair & Company.

The charter school has a unique program, running for about 12 years, that places eighth-graders in jobs, which explains why students are in town rather than relaxing.

“I intern at Hair & Company on White street,” says Amanda, one of 19 eighth-graders participating in the program. “I guess for now I’m really an assistant’s assistant. I sweep the floor, wash towels, stuff like that.”

Below, Nora Fraser stacking and sorting yarn at Wooly Monmouth on Monmouth Street. (Photo by Lola Todman. Click to enlarge)

Supervisors of the program agree: each year it just keeps getting better. Technically, the program is something that all students must partake in, however it is definitely no burden to them.

“My intern was really cool,” Anna Whitaker says of her position at the Fair Haven restaurant Tavolo Pronto, using the term the students use to describe their jobs. “I’m interning mostly for Patti Balderas” Anna says. Patti Balderas (whose sons Matteo and Marco also attend the charter school) is owner of Tavolo Pronto, along with her husband, Arturo Balderas.

Ashley Houck, interning for Red Bank RiverCenter, says she hopes her intern will give her “career experience,” and most students agree.

Teachers also think that students will pull real-world knowledge out of this program, and Stacey Williams (eighth-grade homeroom adjunct teacher) even thinks it will benefit the school itself.

“By sending the kids out and staying in contact with local businesses, it provides us with a lot of community partners,” she said. The list of internship locations include : Hair & Company, Prown’s, Wooly Monmouth and Paint a Tee.

Many wonder, including parents, how each student is assigned to his or her intern. “Well, first the students complete an interest survey,”said eighth-grade homeroom teacher Kathleen Boylan, “and then we categorize the interests. You know: health and medicine, arts and communications, public services.”

Once the students have been placed in a certain interest category, Boylan, Williams, and science teacher Vern Ford help match students up with local businesses. Considering the school’s small size of just 180 students, teachers are familiar with students, and their knowledge is also a factor.

Prown’s owner David Prown knows that when students see him on the street, they think of him as a fun guy who loves to laugh and play sports. But he said it’s important that when they come to work in his home-improvement store, “they understand that I wear a completely different hat for work.”

Prown has been a part of the program since it started, “and every year I expect my intern to treat this like a real job. Be responsible, call me if your going to be late.”

Naturally, students are eager to impress their mentors, so interns being lackadaisical shouldn’t be an employer’s worry. School officials see the intern program as a fun, beneficial experience for eighth-grade students, and as of right now, the interns couldn’t agree more.