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High schoolers get inside look at government

Upcoming high school juniors and seniors: here’s a heads-up on an opportunity to gain real workplace experience in government offices next spring.

Linda Bonds, Farragut High School coordinator of the government intern program, is in the midst of overseeing this year’s group of high school students working alongside judges, policemen and other officials. The program spans two weeks, with up to 50 students placed each week.

Bonds has placed interested students in county, city and state offices for the last 25 years. Their experiences are definitely not limited to filing. This year’s first group toured several institutions, including a prison, juvenile facility, and police station. They petted the bomb dog and saw the drug dog, among many other experiences.

Students can apply for a week of the two-week program. They go through an interview, and are then assigned to an office. The first group of students ended their time downtown with a luncheon at the Foundry June 2. Bonds has been busy recently overseeing the second group.

“Basically, I had thirty-five wonderful interns from several public and private schools in Knox County, and they were assigned to thirty-seven different offices. One boy went out to put out a fire yesterday with the fire marshal. One girl went out with building codes [inspectors] and she saw how dangerous it was when you condemn someone’s property,” Bonds said.

This week students sat in on trials and opened court. “Chancellor Weaver’s intern is watching term limit trials. He’s actually getting to discuss the case with the Chancellor,” Bonds said.

“Two of my boys went out to the firing range yesterday and they got to see how good they were with moving targets … Sadie Marnon, Bearden High School student and intern with Chancellor Sharon Bell, received a thousand dollar scholarship at the Foundry luncheon.

“Suzanne Evans, a Farragut graduate, and Lee Tyler from [Knoxville] Catholic, served as interns with Judge Tim Irwin in Juvenile Court this week,” said Bonds. “They became fast friends, impressed their officeholder and Suzanne shared her experiences very well in an article she wrote about her week as an intern. The article was so outstanding, I wanted the general public to have the opportunity to see what an incredible week she had.”

Evans summed up an experience with “downtown Knoxville government in the following paragraphs:

“All the interns and I began our journey into the downtown Knoxville government on Tuesday, May Thirtieth. The first morning was filled with anxiousness as we waited to meet the people and see the people we would be interning with the rest of the week.

“I personally had no idea of what to expect. My partner, Lee Tyler, and I were assigned to Juvenile Court for the span of four days. Here we would intern with a nice and energetic probation counselor named Stacey Eckard. Although this would only be a short chunk of my summer, I still was not jumping for joy at the thought of sitting in a courtroom for hours on end. …

“There seems to always be bustle inside the building as case after case is brought to the judges. The trials are very short and can sometimes last just five minutes. All the people who work at the Juvenile Court have a passion for their job. A lawyer is running here, a probation officer going there, and a judge listening to another case — all at the same time. …

“Not only did all the interns get to personally follow someone in the government, but we also toured many different buildings. We went through the detention center located in far East Knoxville and even ate lunch there. I can safely say I will never forget that experience.”

Evans then recounts an “uneasy” prison tour experience:

“After shoving our belongings into small lockers, we were all then frisked and sent into the halls of the prison. Of course, we always had plenty of protection with officers around us, but still, there was a slight uneasiness in the building. Some prisoners where shouting and kicking their doors as we passed … Others would just stare at us like they were just waiting for one little high schooler to make the wrong move. Luckily, everyone made it out safely. …”

Evans then sums up the entire experience:

“Plenty of guest speakers were more than willing to talk with us on every subject in the government. I know my eyes were opened just the second day of the week because of all the information shared with us. I am very appreciative of this experience. I honestly did not know so many things about the brave police force, our passionate judges, and driven attorneys.

“The people of Knoxville are leading our community well, but it is still important for future generations to know how the government works. Even if it means taking a few days out of summer break, the internship experience is very much so worth it … also, the perks are great.

“For anyone who takes part in this event in the future, it looks great on scholarships, as well as resumes, for future jobs or careers.”


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