Halfway through her high school career, Lynette Grajales made a courageous decision: She switched schools.
The decision didn’t come easy, but she felt stunted in her spiritual walk and was looking for support. She explains, “In the environment I was in, I didn’t see growth. So I decided to try something new despite the fear I had of coming to a different school.”
Once here, Grajales got involved in choir and Chick-fil-A Leadership Academy. She enrolled in dual enrollment honors courses. And that is where her decision to come to Eastern Christian in the first place led to more decisions.
“I really enjoyed the academic rigor of my honors classes at EC,” she shares. One benefit she hadn’t counted on was the community in her classes, which cultivated an atmosphere where students were free to ask questions, show vulnerability, and disagree with respect. This was especially true in her honors history dual enrollment class, where she credits Mr. Uitermarkt with asking questions that sharpened her critical thinking, requiring her to think “outside of the box.”
But it was another dual enrollment class, Advanced Biology, that not only helped her to grow, but also changed her trajectory. Although she planned to enter the medical field one day, a lesson in medicine and law during an Advanced Biology class changed everything.
“I started looking into law. It was so intriguing to me and that’s how I became interested in the WINGS program,” she shares.
The WINGS program is an innovative internship and mentorship opportunity offered to ECHS juniors and seniors. Students who enter the program are required to complete at least 120 hours in a specific industry. In June of her junior year, Grajales worked with WINGS Program Director Alisa Engelhard and was paired with general law practice Weiss, Tom & Trapanese, LLC to explore this career interest further.
“I had a fantastic experience with the WINGS program and it was a great opportunity for me to learn more about the legal profession and gain practical experience,” she says.
Grajales decided to intern in the summer between her junior and senior year. On longer days, attorney Mary Tom would give her lessons based on the work they were doing that day. “After that, we would go into the real case that we were going to do that day, and she would give me mini tasks to complete,” she says. Tasks included taking notes during client meetings, sending emails to clients, and opening new client portfolios. To earn EC credit, Grajales would complete a work log of her hours, as well as include a description of what she did daily. This would be approved by her supervisor.
Now a graduating senior, Grajales anticipates heading to Seton Hall University this fall, majoring in political studies. By the time she gets to Seton Hall, she will have completed two internships toward that goal. The first one was assigned through Eastern Christian; the second one she found by “knocking on doors.”
This year, more than 20 percent of EC seniors took advantage of the WINGS program. “The WINGS acronym, ‘Work Internship Network for Gaining Skills,’ uses our eagle motif because we really believe that partnerships with the greater EC community offer opportunities beyond classroom experiences,” says Engelhard. “We wish Lynette all the best as she pursues a future career in law.”