Haylie Witham, a Trekkers 11th-grader at Oceanside High School, worked as an intern at Penobscot Bay YMCA earlier this year in the Trekkers’ LEAP program (Launching Empowered and Aspiring Professionals).

Haylie was one of six high school juniors placed in 40-hour paid internships in the local business community. The goal of the program was to help students connect their developing interests and passions to real-world employment experiences.

Participating organizations included Pen Bay Healthcare, Alexis Iammarino in conjunction with The Steel House, VStv, Bay Chiropractic, In Good Company and Penobscot Bay YMCA.

Haylie hoped to explore a career related to personal health and wellness, and Stephanie Williams, wellness director at the Rockland YMCA, served as her supervisor and mentor. Haylie observed trainers as they planned and taught group exercise classes, and guided clients through personalized training regimens. She also worked at the front desk, greeting members.

“Every day the personal training circuits are different, and the trainers have explained to me what they are changing and why," Haylie said. "I’ve also enjoyed participating in different types of group classes, finding out the areas they target and how to keep people motivated. I’ve really enjoyed the variety, and getting to move around while working. It’s been great, I’ve had fun.”

Williams said, “It’s rare these days for a junior in high school to have an area of focus which they would like to explore for the future. If you ask most high school kids what they’d like to go to college for, the majority say, ‘I don’t know.’ When Caitlin [Clark] from Trekkers contacted me to host a 16-year-old intern, I was shocked and excited. Students at this age are impressionable and for us at the Y, we found it inspiring to be able to share our knowledge about community health and wellness. I am grateful to have had this opportunity with Haylie.”

For more information about these 11th-grade programs, go to trekkers.org or call 594-5095. Trekkers is a nonprofit outdoor-based mentoring program that connects young people with caring adults through expeditionary learning, community service and adventure-based education. This year, Trekkers will serve more than 200 seventh- through 12th-grade students from Cushing, Owls Head, Rockland, South Thomaston, St. George and Thomaston.