Estes Park Trail Gazette – Eagle Rock interns take seats in Town Hall

Estes Park businesses are giving students a helping hand — and perhaps a leg up when they join the workforce. Students who have completed internships in Estes Park through the Eagle Rock School and Professional Development Center’s Eagle Rock Cares class this trimester presented a program on their experiences to several Town officials and an audience gathered at the Municipal Building recently. This was the second community gathering honoring Eagle Rock Cares.

Six students from Eagle Rock School recently completed internships with businesses and non-profit organizations in the area. They shared their reflections on the experience and discussed issues, presented ideas and shared recommendations for future projects and continued civic involvement of youth in the community.

“This meeting highlighted the efforts of students, local partners and the Town of Estes Park to actively support civic engagement and service-learning as key elements of education and community development in Estes Park,” Instructional Specialist John Guffey said.

The interns were Adrian Accardi, Master Graphics Printing, Inc.; Dennis McLean, Notchtop Restaurant; Kyle Pelleg, Estes EarthFest; Rafael McLeod, MacGregor Ranch; Scott Forrester, White Elk’s Glass Studio; and Tyler Hall, Ed’s Cantina and Rocky Mountain National Park.

Taking seats usually occupied by Town officials on the dais in the Municipal Building’s boardroom, the students were proud to be there.

“I got the big dawg’s chair.” McLean exclaimed.

“Yo, dude.” “Look pretty,” others answered.

Duffey told the audience that for the last 10 weeks the students had performed internships, in service and community engagement, expanding their learning opportunities through hands-on experience. They chose the sites at participating businesses. They were to benefit the business and learn new things as well.

“We asked the students to pursue a service project, too,” Guffey said.

They worked with the site supervisors, to identify needs.

“I’m proud to have the students here today, to share (their experiences),” he said.

• McLean served at Notchtop in the kitchen, cooking, doing prep work, fixing breakfasts, washing dishes and waiting tables.

“I learned a lot about the restaurant business,” he said. “How to flip eggs in a pan, grating and peeling potatoes for hand-made French fries and I made burgers. Last time, I interned at the police department. This was tons different.

“You have to wait on customers, make sure they’re comfortable, check in on them. That’s important. At Eagle Rock, we have kitchen patrol. You do the same thing. This helped me out a lot. I have to work with 10 people at school. I have to learn how to communicate,” he said.

His biggest challenge? “A lady flirting with me every day — and doing a lot of things at once. You make breakfast, bus the tables, take orders and do it in an orderly fashion. There’s one cook in the morning and tons and tons of dishes,” he said.

• Accardi said his stint at Master Graphics taught him how to create graphic designs on computers and scanners, how to pack boxes correctly and keep customers happy. He said the company helps the community by “giving more for their money. I did a lot of service. I raised money. Before this, I didn’t know what service was. I always wanted money. But we chopped wood, did car washes and cookie sales. It taught me if I do service, good things will come my way. I tried doing as much as I could for good, for free. I did a project for EarthFest, as a favor, and it helped me at the same time,” he said.

The biggest challenge was sitting and working on detailed projects, with patience.

• Pelleg, whose internship was with EarthFest, showed a video and asked the audience to consider what environmental stewardship means. The video flashed advertising clips for many products and credit cards, backed by a song, with the words, “We want your soul.”

Initially, he said he wasn’t particularly personally interested in EarthFest, but the more research he did, he realized, “This does affect me. Everything I do affects everyone else. We all impact the Earth and others. If we aren’t living cleanly, we start having health problems. EarthFest is about giving back. Recycle as much as possible.”

• McLeod, from New Mexico, worked on MacGregor Ranch for six weeks, three times a week for two hours, and learned that doesn’t begin to cover what there is to do on a ranch. He worked on repairing fences.

“I learned how much maintenance a ranch takes,” he said. There’s 2,000-plus acres. I fixed one part of a fence four times, because of the elk running through it. The guys I worked with were great. There were always things that needed to be done. There were 200 1.5-tone bales. They had to rent a Bobcat to move them. There’s lots that can go wrong at a ranch.”

He has worked for ranches before and said they always need help. At MacGregor Ranch, he helped with “whatever was needed. They only have two people there to work (although there are 87 active volunteers).”

• Forrester, an artist, who interned at White Elk’s Glass Studio in Glen Haven, learned about communication and teamwork.

“I was working with four other gentlemen in a small room. You have to know where to stand when you have a hot, pliable, magnificent piece,” he said.

He believes this experience helped to lay the foundation for “me to do something great. It’s given me a new skill. Things always turn out for the better.”

Asked how this experience affected his art, Forrester said, “I know that every piece is beauty. But you can always have fun, art will always be beautiful. Criticism has held me back. Now, I can enjoy what I’m doing and not worry about whether it’s good. Having fun with art is the biggest thing.

• Hall served two internships, one at Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) and the other at Ed’s Cantina. At RMNP, he collected weather data and at Ed’s, he served as a cook and did prep work.

“I learned how to cut onions, peeled onions a lot, helped on line, did lots of stews and chilis. I had a lot of fun with that, making the food better,” he said.

This was his first service project, although he has done volunteer work before. The difference between the two is “service gives you learning to help you in the future, get all you can out of the experience,” he said.

Guffey finished the presentation by saying the internships are “meaningful for our school. The students have done an extraordinarily good job. Thank you who participated and allowed the students to come into jobs.”

He also said the school is “taking orders for service sites in January.” Those interested in participating in the program should call him at 586-7115.