Planting Her Roots in the Field of Agriculture: Sophia’s Environmental Internship
Sophia, a rising senior at Milton Hershey School, is passionate about plants and environmental science and dreams of pursuing a career in this field. She chose the Agriculture and Natural Resources career pathway in the school’s Career and Technical Education program, where she earns industry-recognized certifications and takes in-depth agriculture courses.
To increase her knowledge and gain hands-on experience, Sophia is completing a summer internship at Messiah College in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania.
“I love taking advantage of opportunities,” said Sophia. “At MHS, we’re coming out of our comfort zone and going to different places to learn about big things we could be doing in the future.”
She spent part of her internship working in the Grantham Community Garden, a 1-acre student-run garden at Messiah College. Sophia learned about composting, sustainability, and the business side of agriculture by selling squash, onions, beets, kale, and more at the campus farm stand.
Dr. David Foster, professor of Biology and Environmental Science, mentors Sophia and encourages her to participate in important projects such as improving the pharmaceutical yield of the native medicinal plant goldenseal. She also is receiving hands-on training with high-tech instruments. She uses an infrared gas analyzer to test leaves for photosynthesis in real-time by gauging how much carbon dioxide is pulled out of the air.
“When I was assembling [the equipment], I was able to connect it to when we did tractor safety in an agriculture class [at MHS] and put the tubes on the machine,” Sophia explained.
As Sophia continues making connections to the MHS classroom, she is learning the value of teamwork, gaining confidence with new tasks and equipment, and building a strong sense of reasoning.
She also works alongside Messiah College students every day. The college students have recognized how valuable her internship has been to their personal growth, since they have been able to form supportive relationships with Sophia and share their knowledge with her.
“It’s a great partnership between Milton Hershey School and Messiah College to be able to have [Sophia] interning here,” said Dr. David Foster. “Teamwork is a beneficial part of these internships. Students are in a new situation where they have to make new relationships, form new bonds, and accomplish a task at the same time.”