Each summer, Virginia Cooperative Extension offers more than 40 college students and recent graduates the opportunity to work on a team that changes people’s lives and betters communities.

Through the 10-week program, interns work alongside Extension faculty members gaining experience in youth development, agriculture and natural resources, and family and consumer sciences.

Thomas Vasilopoulos, a 2015 intern, spent his summer with the Extension office in Arlington County. Although he was double majoring in integrated science and technology and Spanish, he found himself doing all sorts of tasks within the office, including helping to design programs and teach children at three different schools.

“They didn’t really hesitate to give me a lot of responsibilities,” Vasilopoulos said. “Extension hired me to make a positive impact in this office, and that’s what I wanted to do.”

In the middle of the summer, the Arlington County office’s 4-H agent took a new job in Kansas. Due to this transition, Vasilopoulos worked more closely with 4-H programs, acting as a stand-in agent.

“It’s really great that Extension made these internships available,” said Jennifer Abel, unit coordinator and family and consumer sciences agent in Arlington County. “It’s very helpful for us to have some extra hands to help out during the summer.”

Vasilopoulos’ knowledge of the Spanish language also proved useful throughout his time in Arlington. According to Abel, he assisted in translating documents from English to Spanish that could be used with their Hispanic clients. Vasilopoulos said he discovered his Spanish was a more marketable skill than he had anticipated.

Jordan Hoffman, a crop and soil sciences major at Virginia Tech, served as an intern in the Culpeper County office, where she learned more about the horticulture, agriculture, and 4-H fields. During her internship, Hoffman helped to promote and make decisions for the completion of the George Washington Carver Agriculture Research Center in Culpeper County and gained networking experience.

“I think the biggest thing that my internship taught me was to be more confident in what I actually know,” Hoffman said.

The internship not only provides students an opportunity to learn more about their areas of interest, but it also allows them to get a taste of Extension and all the different ways it works with the community.

“We hope some of these students will choose to pursue a career in Extension after their experience,” said Joe Hunnings, VCE’s director of professional development. “Over the past few years, Extension has hired several interns as full-time agents.”