Counselors and teachers at Wootton High School in Rockville reacted to a recent column [Montgomery Extra, May 26] in which educational consultant Shirley Levin warned against internships that interfered with a challenging academic schedule in the senior year of high school.

Dear Extra Credit:

Currently we have internship coordinators in the following areas at Wootton: child development and education, business, psychology and counseling, science and humanities. Internships provide real-world and educational experiences that encourage students to explore a wide range of options. There are educational requirements that come with the internships, and they are not isolated from the rigorous school program but an integral part of it for some students.

Many of these opportunities cannot be replicated in a school setting. We want education to go beyond the school walls. We devote a lot of time and energy to the internships because they benefit our students. We also have found that they help address the issue of motivation in the senior year.

Will Ramsey

Resource Counselor

Wootton High School

Dear Extra Credit:

Levin was responding to a large percentage of Wootton parents whose children are clearly seeking admission to the most highly selective universities. I totally agree with her viewpoint: that general internships are no substitute for a rigorous senior-year course load.

That is not to say that all internships are a bad idea for these competitive candidates, but the ones that are most successful (as in, the students are admitted to the school of choice) are the ones in which the student engages in a positive internship experience and maintains a rigorous course load.

There is, however, a large group of seniors who seek admission to less competitive universities. I believe that internships, combined with courses that create a challenging and interesting senior-year experience, are perfectly adequate for admission to a host of universities. I think the goal is to maintain the integrity of a student's transcript. In other words, choose an internship experience that reflects the commitment and success the student has demonstrated thus far.

Diana Blitz

Counselor

Wootton High School

Dear Extra Credit:

I don't believe that internships were intended to be a substitute for rigorous courses. I think they are an addition to a student's resume and sometimes make a difference in a student's entrance into college. It depends on the internship, student input, mentor input, and coordinator input and guidance.

For example, one of my students was selected by the University of Maryland's honors and psychology programs. The psych program is huge, popular and extremely selective. So is the honors program.

I think it helped him tremendously that he assisted a professor at American University. She was doing research on cognition. He worked with her and then was guided by her to develop his own research program and do the research.

How many students start college at that level? How valuable is it when a college admission person sees this? And this is not a unique example.

But internships are not for everyone, and they should be considered based on each individual student. Many very motivated and very bright students at Wootton, who take rigorous courses, are in the humanities program or college institute and are in my internship program. They are very successful in the program. They receive outstanding evaluations, which they can use for a college application. They seem to make the most of whatever they do.

There are other examples. For instance, there were five interns at the Montgomery County police department, working with victims' rights or domestic violence, setting up programs for social services, going to court with police officers and other department officials and writing handbooks for personnel.

What about the intern who is in contact with victims of crime and abuse and makes sure a family with young kids gets gifts at holiday time? One of our Wootton students won the highest internship award from Montgomery County public schools for doing that, as well as for doing an outstanding job for the police department. How does that look on a college resume or translate into giving to your community?

I think we need to avoid making generalizations. Some programs are good for some students, and others are good for others. It's an individual thing. And I don't believe that we should ever assume that only rigorous course work makes the world go round -- or that internships make the world go round. But our youngsters have made an incredible impact, both inside and outside of school.

Marie T. Smith

AP Psychology teacher

and coordinator, psychology

internship program

Wootton High School