Broncos Lead intern pursues passion for early child development at preschool

Contact: Chris Hybels

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—Western Michigan University's Allison Hoeksema is preparing preschoolers for their transition to kindergarten this summer as a part of the Broncos Lead Internship Program. A student in WMU's child development and services program, she is working at the Jennings Development Interplex's (JDI) preschool as a paid intern and is receiving professional development from the internship program this summer.

"I decided to live in Kalamazoo for the summer and I needed a job to pay rent, but I also wanted experience in my field. And through Broncos Lead, JDI is able to pay me during my internship," says Hoeksema.

Supported by the historic Empowering Futures Gift, the Broncos Lead Internship Program provides paid internships for Western students to ensure they have access to work experiences. Students are paid for 20 hours per week during the 12-week program. Unlike other internship programs, they will receive paychecks directly from their employer, but the funding itself will come from Western.

"When students are employed directly by a business or organization, it's more meaningful work," says Andrea Page, assistant director of internships at Western. "And the ability for Western to pay the employers up front is huge to some of these small businesses and nonprofits who haven't been able to host interns in the past because they simply can't afford it."

According to Page, Broncos Lead is more than just a traditional internship program; it is an opportunity for students to prepare for future careers. As part of the program students participate in professional development workshops, build relationships with mentors and a create video presentation to add to their portfolios.

Dr. Suzan Smith-Ayers, chair of the Department of Family and Consumer Sciences, adds "one of the greatest benefits to the Broncos Lead Internship Program is the economic support for students pursing lower-income careers. Students, like Allison, are able to apply knowledge in practical settings in ways that confirm their passion for their careers with support from the University."

Located in the Kalamazoo's Northside neighborhood, the JDI preschool provides instruction to 3-year-old children to prepare them for kindergarten. For instruction, JDI uses the creative curriculum which encourages developing age appropriate objectives within four main categories: social/emotional, physical, cognitive and language.

As a student in the child development services program, Hoeksema is being prepared to work with children and their families in a wide range of care and service settings. Students in the program gain interpersonal relationships and communication skills, knowledge on diverse family systems and parent education along with a in-depth look at family law, policy and professional ethics.

"Working here has really opened my eyes to wanting to work with the younger kids. Before I started at JDI, I thought being a preschool teacher was totally not for me, but coming here and doing it I now know this is what I want to do," says Hoeksema.

about broncos lead internship program

Western is dedicated to providing meaningful, resume-worthy experience for WMU students, extending learning that begins in the classroom. The Broncos Lead Internship Program will provides support for Broncos exploring their career options, including wages for work completed at internships in a network of businesses and companies. For more information about the program, visit the Empowering Futures website.

Students interested in the Bronco Leads Internship Program can find internship opportunities through Handshake, Western's job search tool.

About child DEVELOPMENT and services at wmu

This program centers on the development of children, birth through school age, and the cultivation of skills, environments, and programs that promote healthy child development and outcomes. The child development and services program offers two tracks; child programming and administration (fulfills State of Michigan requirements for childcare center directors) and child life foundations (provides fundamental knowledge for service as child life specialist). For more information about the concentration, visit the program overview page

For more WMU news, arts and events, visit WMU News online.