By 509J Communications

In a remarkable first for Jefferson County School District 509J, four exceptional Madras High School (MHS) students have been hand-selected to participate in an inaugural internship program with the esteemed KEITH Manufacturing, a leading international company headquartered in Madras. This groundbreaking opportunity would not be possible without the help of the High Desert Education Service District (ESD). Their staff has partnered with JCSD 509J and KEITH to allow these students to immerse themselves in a real hands-on experience.

The six-week program was established with a vision to bridge the gap between classroom learning and real-world application. Throughout the program, the students are gaining invaluable insights and skills that are setting them on a path toward success.

The program has been met with excitement and enthusiasm from both students and staff. The four students in the internship are Gabi Baza, Seth Feigner, Riley McElroy, and Cristobal Hug. All the students agreed that what they learned in manufacturing class at MHS prepared them to succeed in this new role.

“In the Madras High School manufacturing class, we would weld there all the time,” Baza said. “So, coming here it was like pretty easy to pick up on their welding stuff and all of them thought we didn’t know how to weld so they were all surprised about our welds and how good they were.”

The internship program offers the students true hands-on experience, where they are fully integrated into various departments within KEITH Manufacturing. These students are not confined to job shadowing and observing but are entrusted with real responsibilities, allowing them to flourish and showcase their potential.

“I wanted the interns to work on real products that are going out to our customers,” KEITH Manufacturing Plant Manager Mike Feigner said. “I have heard nothing but glowing reviews from our employees about the students.” 

The interns rotated through different departments to get a better understanding of what a career in manufacturing could look like for them.

From the beginning, the interns were allowed to work on active projects, collaborating with seasoned professionals in their respective areas of the company. Seth Feigner, for example, was recently working in the flooring department where he was welding both aluminum and steel. Hug had the opportunity to work in the plastic computer numerical control (CNC) machining area. This is a popular manufacturing method that quickly creates plastic components that are uniform and precise.

Baza put her skills to the test when she was working in the Bunkers area.

“You build custom things. So, we were in one area, they were building an ice bunker and it was huge. We’re building more floors for other clients as well,” she said. “So, there is just a bunch of different flooring for other countries and they want to make it custom for their needs. Then we got to do some hydraulic stuff and that was fun to learn.”

At the end of the program, the students have the opportunity to return to the department they liked the most. For Feigner, he enjoyed the work in the electrical department. 

“I think it was cool. It didn’t feel rushed,” he said. “They were either fixing stuff around the shop or main control boards for the bunkers they sent out and it was either that or going around fixing stuff and it’s really fun.”

Superintendent of Jefferson County School District 509J, Dr. Jay Mathisen, shared his pride in witnessing the growth of the interns. “Our students are truly flourishing in this program. The experience they gain at KEITH Manufacturing aligns perfectly with our district’s vision of creating a collaborative learning community that works with all our learning partners to prepare our students for college, career, and life.”

By providing the students with real hands-on experience through the internship, we are unlocking potential and shaping the leaders of tomorrow. Each organization involved was driven by its commitment to providing students with real-world learning opportunities that would help the students get better every day. 

Our district would like to thank the team at High Desert ESD for working throughout the school year to bring this to fruition. Those team members are: Kim Bezdek, CTE Instructional Specialist, Lisa Meredith, Career Navigation Specialist, and Brook Rich, Regional Director of CTE and STEM. Our district also wants to recognize the team at KEITH that has worked tirelessly to provide these opportunities to our students. Thank you to Mike Feigner, Plant Manager, and Brenda Jones, Human Resources Manager. Lastly, we also want to thank our previous MHS Manufacturing teacher, Ben Anderson. His work in the classroom undoubtedly prepared these students for success in the program.

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