Internships & Mentorships
Join the 100+ professionals who host our students as unpaid interns at their regional businesses and organizations, mentoring them as they develop soft skills, learn about careers, help with routine tasks, and tackle real-world projects.
Our students intern off-campus on Tuesdays and Thursdays during the school year. It's treated as a learning experience that is part of their school day.
We welcome mentors from any career field. If you volunteer, you aren't locked in. You'll be added to our database, and a student will reach out to you if your work matches their interests. You'll meet the student before fully committing.
Click the volunteer button below to be added to our database of potential internship mentors — or scroll down to learn more.
- How Mentoring Works
- Internship Projects
- Learning Through Interest (LTI) Guidelines for Students
- Career Chats
- Volunteering to Mentor Form
Gibson Ek High School students learn from working professionals whose careers match the students’ interests. Mentors have the opportunity to teach a student about the job, coach soft skills, and make a lifelong impact on a teen. Students work with a mentor and tackle a related project on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
- Getting Started
- Mentoring Time Commitment
- Mentorship Work & Projects
- Professionalism & Students
- Mentee Attendance & Assessment
- FAQs About In-Person Mentoring
Student outreach: After the mentor's information is included in our database, students will search for mentors whose careers match their interest. A student will contact the mentor, likely via email, to request a meeting.
Set-up meeting: The student and their advisor will meet with the mentor to determine whether all three agree that an internship/mentorship might be a good fit. The meeting may also cover project work, daily routines, and learning goals.
Brief paperwork: If all agree, we will send the mentor brief online paperwork, including a background check. When this is all finalized, the mentorship may begin.
Dates: Mentorships typically begin with one trimester (10-12 weeks) and often extend through the school year, though the mentor may end the experience at any time.
In-person hours: At the start, mentor and student agree on arrival and departure times for Tuesdays and Thursdays when school is in session. Full on-site internships are 4-7 hours a day, and schedule does not need to align with school hours.
If the mentor prefers a part-time in-person arrangement, the student may stay just 2-3 hours and work from home the rest of the day.
Remote-only hours: Most virtual mentors meet with the student 1-2 times a week, depending on availability. Duration varies widely, but an average video chat lasts around 30 minutes.
In-person: Mentors set basic expectations for on-site work. It is fine to assign some menial tasks, but it's important that a teen intern not replace a paid employee. The primary goal is for the student to learn, so we encourage plenty of observation of, or engagement in, the business or organization.
Remote: The student works independently from home before or after video chatting with the mentor.
Projects: In either case, a good portion of the student's time should be spent working on the mentorship project. The student’s advisor and student will collaborate with the mentor to determine the project.
Few high school students have experience with the soft skills that adults develop in the workplace. They may seem awkward, shy, or sometimes even somewhat inappropriate.
Mentors should feel comfortable guiding students by modeling and even directly teaching professional behavior. From face-to-face communication, to email and phone etiquette, to professional grooming and posture — teens benefit greatly from coaching in soft skills.
If any issues arise, the mentor should contact the student's advisor right away.
Attendance reporting: Mentors may receive an email each mentorship day to confirm the student's attendance. We urge mentors to reach out ASAP to the student's advisor if a student is late or absent.
Project assessment: The student's advisor evaluates any project work for credit. The mentor's role is more like a coach or guide.
Exhibition and feedback (optional, but encouraged): Mentors are invited to attend the student’s exhibition, an hour-long presentation of learning each trimester to a panel of teachers, peers and parents. Mentors also will be asked to provide written feedback around exhibition time or when the internship ends.
A great mentor...
- Communicates frequently with the student and advisor.
- Sets high expectations.
- Meets regularly with the student to discuss goals and progress.
- Offers constructive feedback to encourage growth.
- Shares resources and knowledge.
- Collaborates with the student and advisor on an appropriate project.
- Am I the only one who can work with the student?
- How will Gibson Ek adults stay connected with me?
- Do I need additional insurance coverage?
- Is it legal to host an unpaid teen intern?
- Can I pay my intern?
- What if I am having a problem with my intern?
- Why might an internship end — and how would I end it?
At the workplace, the mentor is the primary person who oversees the student. You should know where they are and generally what they are working on, but the student should become integrated into your team and be only a minimal investment of your time (similar to managing other staff). Other employees are welcome to work with the student, but those working 1:1 behind closed doors should complete a background check.
The student’s advisor (teacher) is your primary contact for the duration of the mentorship.
- The advisor tracks attendance and evaluates the student's project work.
- The advisor attends the initial set-up meeting and typically visits in person once or twice each trimester.
- The advisor and program coordinator will email you regularly as well for updates and check-ins.
Probably not. Parents are asked to sign an indemnification removing an obligation for the business or organization to obtain additional workers compensation insurance coverage. That said, the district requires that we only partner with businesses that have in place at least $1 million in liability coverage, standard for most businesses.
No. Students are ‘paid’ for their internship with academic credit. Because of this, paying interns is essentially ‘double-dipping’ and lessening the academic experience. In fact, state law forbids unpaid high school interns from fully displacing a paid employee. You may, however, pay your intern for work they do before or after the set internship hours, including summer.
You and the student might mutually agree that the mentorship work and goals have been met, or the student may wish to try out a different career field, or you or the student may believe the fit is not positive for one or both sides.
ENDING A MENTORSHIP: Whatever the case, you and the student should first discuss the internship ending, you should set an end date, and both of you should immediately notify the advisor and the program coordinator. The student should ensure that any pending work is completed, and both of you will likely be asked to provide written feedback about the experience.
Developing a Meaningful Project
Whether a student is in-person at a workplace or meeting virtually with a mentor, the student should have a project to work on that relates somehow to the career interest.
Some mentors know immediately what a student could be working on, but we expect most of our mentors will collaborate with the student and advisor to design a project that makes sense. We recommend taking ONE of these THREE approaches:
Ideally, the student is working on something truly usable by the mentor's organization. Examples:
- creating a promotional video or brochure
- making calls to voters for a political campaign
- drafting online schedules or newsletters
- sorting and analyzing customer or inventory data
- building or making products
- designing an activity for children or seniors
If the mentor does not have work that a teen could authentically tackle, consider a ...
The student tries to do what the mentor does as the mentor is doing it, building competence as they compare their work to the professional work. Examples:
- writing code if the mentor is a software engineer
- preparing a restaurant’s recipes if the mentor is a chef
- creating curriculum if the mentor is a teacher
- making an architectural drawing if the mentor is an architect
- designing a print promotion if the mentor is a graphic designer
If an organization is unable to offer an authentic or parallel project (e.g. safety concerns), try ...
Student simply learns content about the professional's field. The mentor helps the student by suggesting learning topics, reviewing their progress, and emphasizing the importance of that content to the career field. Examples:
- researching the anatomy of cats and dogs if the mentor is a vet
- diagramming how car engines function if the mentor works in a repair shop
- taking an OSHA safety course if the mentor is in a construction trade
- analyzing skin care ingredients if the mentor works in a spa
Still stumped? Mentor, advisor and student should put their heads together and collaborate during a project development meeting early in the internship.
- Structure and Requirements
- Identifying Internships
- Getting Started
- Internship Attendance and Expectations
- Workplace or Virtual Meeting Visits
- Internship Work: Projects and Reflections
- Dealing with Issues or Ending the Internship
Students are expected to spend Tuesdays and Thursdays being mentored, whether in-person or virtually, throughout their high school career. The purpose is not for the student to function as an employee, but rather to develop a relationship with a mentoring adult professional and a real-world project to deepen learning and help students discover their professional interests. We sometimes call these "internships."
Below are the minimum requirements, but the expectation is that all students spend nearly all Tuesdays and Thursdays working with a mentor and working on a mentorship project, with the exception of 101s in September as they participate in LTI Kickstart.
101: 100 Hours plus 3 Shadow Days and/or Informational Interviews
201: 200 Hours plus 2 Shadow Days and/or Informational Interviews
301: 250 Hours plus 1 Shadow Day and/or Informational Interview*
401: 250 Hours*
*250 hours/year can be achieved if the student is in mentorship a minimum of 4 hours each Tuesday and Thursday from early October until late May.
Hours (In-Person): At the start of the internship, mentor and student agree on arrival and departure times for Tuesdays and Thursdays when school is in session. Most students intern from 4-6 hours a day. Hours do not need to align with school hours.
Hours (Remote): Students meet virtually with their mentor, ideally Tuesdays and Thursdays, and spend the rest of their work time on those days engaged in their internship project at home.
Hours (Combo): Mentor may prefer a shorter in-person time period of 2-3 hours. If so, students should work from home on the project the remaining time.
Time Span: Mentoring commitments can span just a few weeks or even multiple school years, depending on what works for the mentor and student.
Students should be realistic and open about opportunities. Many students come to Gibson Ek with high expectations for a “perfect” internship that would in actuality be unlikely for a teenager. Others arrive without any ideas about interests, skills or career goals. Neither approach is helpful.
The LTI coordinator and the student’s advisor will guide new students through career and personality exploration activities, but it is up to the student to determine which opportunities to pursue. Gibson Ek’s ImBlaze database offers numerous possibilities, but students are encouraged to reach out to friends and family for opportunities, whether for themselves or another. By working together as a community, Gibson Ek staff, students, and families can develop a diverse internship database.
Student outreach: Students are responsible for finding their own mentorship/internship. They may cold-contact interesting people or places, work through friends or family, or use our ImBlaze database to search for potential opportunities. Whatever the approach, the student contacts the mentor, likely via email, to request a meeting.
Set-up meeting: The student and their advisor will meet with the mentor to determine whether all three agree that an internship/mentorship might be a good fit. The meeting may also cover project work, daily routines, and learning goals. If this meeting is in-person rather than virtual, students should complete a shadow day (field trip) permission form for the front office and arrange for transportation.
Paperwork: If all agree to proceed with the mentorship, the student and/or advisor should alert the LTI coordinator by completing the Internship Set-Up Request form. The coordinator then background-checks the mentor and emails a Learning Agreement to the student, parent, advisor and mentor to sign electronically.
Official start: When ALL PARTIES have signed the agreement and the background check is cleared, the coordinator will set up the mentorship in ImBlaze for attendance, and the coordinator will email everybody to confirm that the experience may begin.
Transportation: For in-person internships, students are responsible for their own transportation to and from the workplace, whether that be walking, driving or taking a city bus. Students and families should be certain they can manage transportation before starting an internship.
Logging attendance: After the internship is approved, it will become active in ImBlaze, the system (app and online) Gibson Ek uses to track attendance. Each student MUST log in and out every Tuesday and Thursday, even if they are interning remotely. This is how our office staff tracks mandatory school attendance. Mentors receive emails to confirm the attendance, and advisors track attendance. Students who fail to log in will be marked absent and also will not accumulate hours. Students who fail to log out also will not accumulate hours.
Tardies or absences: Students should ALWAYS be early or on time for their in-person internship or virtual mentor meetings. If something unexpected interferes, or if a student must be late or absent for any reason, the student must notify their mentor and advisor as soon as possible. Additionally, because internship days are normal school days, the parent or guardian should excuse the absence through the Gibson Ek office just as they would on any school day. BOTH actions should occur every time.
Dress: Students should dress according to the expectations of that workplace, even for virtual meetings in a remote internship. Students should ask the mentor what is appropriate if it’s not obvious. In nearly every case, students would be expected to present themselves as more “covered up” in a workplace than fashion might dictate in casual life. The complaints we receive most often are about students who wear clothing that is unprofessionally revealing for a workplace environment.
Professional etiquette (In-Person): Interning can be a little scary; students often don’t know what to expect in a workplace or how to act. But that’s OK! The key to success is a willingness to learn -- it’s not about doing everything perfectly from the start. Our mentors sacrifice their time to teach and support students, so we expect students to arrive ready and open to learning, which means maintaining a friendly and helpful attitude, asking questions about things they don’t know, and listening actively to answers and guidance. Students should stay off their phones and make friendly eye contact.
Professional etiquette (Remote): Even during virtual meetings with mentors, students should follow the professional etiquette rules above. They also should ensure that they know how to work the video meeting tech, and if possible that they have a quiet space, bright lighting and an appropriate background.
Communication: Students should use only their Gibson Ek email (not personal) for email communications, and should ensure an adult looks over initial emails or anything else sent to or from the office environment. Students should keep their language professional and positive in written and verbal communications.
Interns are expected to be engaged in learning through a project that aligns with the mentor's work. The mentor and advisor can help develop an appropriate project. More help and guidance is available on our Internship Projects web page. This project work should be displayed proudly in the student's portfolio and submitted to Dashboard for competencies to be assessed by the advisor.
The mentor may also – especially for in-person internships – assign some routine tasks to the intern that may or may not match the project.
Finally, interns must write an internship reflection at the end of each experience to share with the advisor and LTI coordinator.
If a student is struggling with a mentorship for any reason, the student should talk to the advisor right away about strategies. BUT A STUDENT SHOULD NEVER SIMPLY STOP SHOWING UP TO AN INTERNSHIP OR TO VIRTUAL MEETINGS WITHOUT INFORMING BOTH MENTOR AND ADVISOR. his is highly unprofessional and damages the reputation of our program.
An internship might reasonably end, however, if:
- The mentor and student might mutually agree that the internship work and goals have been met.
- The student may wish to try out a different career field.
- The mentor or student may believe the fit is not positive for one or both sides.
If any of these apply, the mentor and student should first discuss the internship ending and set an end date. At this point, both parties — mentor and student — should immediately notify the advisor and the LTI coordinator. The student should ensure that any pending work is completed, and mentor and student will be asked to provide written feedback about the experience. Students should send thank you notes to the mentor and any other relevant employees.
Note that if a student wishes to try a different placement, the best course of action is to talk to the advisor and pursue other options WHILE continuing with the original internship, rather than quitting and then deciding later what to do next. The advisor can help the student phase out of one and into the next after the second internship has been secured.
In 2021, professionals from a variety of career fields have been speaking to the Gibson Ek student body one morning each week. They discuss what their jobs entail, often sharing engaging visuals, and also talk about their own career paths. The Career Chat speakers who can be recorded are posted below.
If you or someone you know would like to speak to Gibson Ek students about your career, please email mentorship coordinator Casey Henry.
‘Our Gibson Ek intern was diligent, helpful and respectful, and we were able to share information about a field (medical lab sciences) with a growing need for trained individuals.’
Demi ZamzowIncyte Diagnostics, Bellevue
‘An internship is an excellent way to see your business and its operations through a very different lens - that of our youth, our future.’
Kristi TrippleRowley Properties, Issaquah
‘Star Protection has had the incredible opportunity to partner with Gibson Ek and worked with two students with completely different backgrounds and goals. Watching these eager students learn, ask questions, and take on new challenges has been very rewarding.’