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Internship program offers hands-on experience in military setting

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas (AFNS) -- Graduating college seniors interested in hands-on experience working with child and youth programs on military installations worldwide are encouraged to sign up for the Military Extension Internship Program (MEIP).

The MEIP enables students to integrate their schooling with more professional knowledge and skills gained through practical, real-world work experience within functions of force support squadron and Airman and family services programs.

But there’s a more important purpose, said Gerald Hires, the MEIP Air Force coordinator at the Air Force Services Activity.

“MEIP is designed to help the intern have a better appreciation for military families and some of the issues military families go through during a deployment,” he said. “Interns see firsthand how children are affected when their parent is deployed. This experience allows interns to put their college coursework to use in helping the children cope with the change.”

In 2009, Purdue University was selected to oversee the program, which is an initiative of the Defense Department’s Military Community and Family Policy Office, the military branches, National 4-H Council headquarters at the Department of Agriculture, and the Office of the Secretary of Defense. The program is open to graduating seniors or recent graduates who want to pursue a career working with children.

Since 2010, there have been 302 applicants, with 199 accepted and 32 placed in Air Force positions at various installations.

The 12-week internships are paid and responsibilities vary by installation, Hires said. Before they start their internship, program attendees go through a weeklong orientation where they are assigned a mentor for the duration of the internship.

Rick Banfield, who served as the program coordinator from October 2012 to January 2015, recommends the program but cautions it’s not a fit for everybody.

“If you have a passion to work with the Air Force and children, chances are we can find an opportunity for you,” Banfield said. “I tell them it’s a 180-day job interview.”

Excited for new adventure

Monica Calderon, 22, admitted she took a “leap of faith” when she applied for the MEIP.

Calderon, who plans to graduate with a degree in human development and family studies from Indiana University upon completing the internship, has never been around the Air Force or military families. Her internship begins May 6 at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph.

“I took the internship into consideration, but I didn’t apply until a friend nagged me to do it,” said Calderon, who was born in Houston but raised in South Bend, Indiana. “I’m excited to get accepted. I love working with youths, in particular at-risk youths.

“I never thought about working for the Air Force,” said Calderon, who aspires to attend law school and work in the juvenile justice system. “My family members continuously ask me about it, but if I’m offered a job and I enjoy it, I say ‘Why not?’”

Making the most of her internship

Julie Humberd knew she wanted to work in the Air Force after graduating with a degree in recreation administration from Middle Tennessee State University in 2013.

Her father, Jesse, is a retired Airman who works as a security forces squadron’s information technology manager at Arnold Air Force Base, Tennessee.

She went online and found MEIP. She applied, was accepted and completed an internship at Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina, in 2013.

“It narrowed down my focus and set me on the path,” Humberd, 26, said of the internship. “I tell everybody about it, especially if you want to work with children and youths and want to learn about the military and travel.”

Humberd is now the outdoor recreation manager at Arnold AFB.

“It developed her professionalism and maturity,” said Banfield, who interviewed Humberd for the internship. “I’m not going to say it was a night-and-day difference because she was mature when she went through her orientation. Now she has her own staff, and you can definitely tell the passion she had about it.”

For more information on MEIP, click here.


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