Internship offers teen a look behind the scenes

Like most kids growing up in Hinsdale, Ella Horstman spent part of each summer at the village's parks, the community pool, and of course, attending the Fourth of July parade. It wasn't until this summer that she took a peak behind the curtain to see the work and planning involved with making those activities available.

"Seeing how everything works is really interesting," said Horstman, who is about to complete her summer internship with the Hinsdale Parks and Recreation Department. "It's something I never really thought about. It takes a lot of work."

As an accounting major at Western Michigan University, Horstman's studies have more to do with numbers than planning parades and proofreading brochures. But that's what she was looking for in a summer job.

"I just wanted to get a feel for the inner working of local government," she said.

In short, Horstman learned that a lot of work is accomplished by a very small group of people. With one person on medical leave for a share of the summer, Horstman and two others were left to get things done.

"It was pretty crazy at times," she said, and things didn't always go exactly as planned.

The ability to pivot is one of the many skills that Horstman will take from the internship, no matter where her career takes her.

Numbers did play a small part in Horstman's summer activities. She helped to balance the daily transactions at the pool. Other duties included hanging signs at various parks to inform people of the day's activities, calling participants about changes in programming and booking reservations for picnic rentals and birthday parties at the pool. She also helped organize the men's summer softball league and prepare the fall program for distribution.

After working several part-time jobs during high school, Horstman said this was her first full-time position. Most days, Horstman worked 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., but an occasional weekend or evening also was required.

"I learned a lot of office skills," she said, and gained experience working with the public. Horstman said she also expanded her computer skills and learned to organize a busy email inbox. Perhaps most importantly, she learned time management and how to balance work life with a social life. "That's something I really struggled with at first," she said.

But now, Horstman said she is considering adding a heavier class load to her schedule.

"Now, I feel like I can handle a little more," she said.

While searching for a place to work this summer, Horstman originally applied as an event host at the Lodge at Katherine Legge Memorial Park. But the position didn't offer enough hours, so Horstman applied for the internship.

"It's almost over," said Horstman, who will finish her work Aug. 8, leaving her a couple of weeks to prepare for her sophomore year at college. Horstman said she'll continue to study accounting, but her summer job opened her eyes to the many career possibilities ahead. A degree in accounting will offer security, Horstman said, with the flexibility to do other things.

"I have options," she said.

One of which is a possible return to the parks and rec department next summer.

- story by Sandy Illian Bosch, photo by Jim Slonoff

Author Bio

Sandy Illian Bosch is a contributing writer to The Hinsdalean