One of the staples of SLA is its unique Individualized Learning Programs (ILPs) for sophomores and juniors. Students are given internships with local businesses and organizations that they find on their own or are paired with usually on Wednesdays afternoons. The goal is to get students involved out in Philadelphia and gain experience in work fields.
Understanding that a person isn’t getting paid, two years at an ILP’s also fills any community service requirements that would be asked of students by faculty. They represent the prime opportunity to get exposure to the real working wold and learning valuable life skills on school time.
It’s a wonder why more people don’t talk about their shining experience. Many people in SLA in fact don’t even go to their ILP’s or when they arrive they find out it isn’t what they wanted.
To me, this is a waste of an amazing opportunity. The problem is that students that go into an ILP expecting to be seated at their own personal desk and have their own tasks are sorely misled. Instead, most of what students get is list of chore level work, not surpassingly something an Intern would do. It’s best to go into an ILP without expectations or a feeling of entitlement for a higher position. Have it drilled into your mind that you’re an intern, the bottom of the food chain, and like everyone else must work their way up.
That being said, a general disinterest in one’s ILP can be expected and understood. Through the process of picking your own from the ILP catalogue, you could get paired up with something that has low meaning. Like a boring class, if the work is not engaging, doesn’t apply to your interests, and you see no long term goals, what incentive is there for you to continue attending?
What makes it worse if the coordinator places you in an ILP that isn’t one you want, there is even less push for you to attend. This is highly likely considering many of the ILP’s in the catalogue are outdated. I myself made my first three choices based off an interest in the medical field, only to find next year that all of them no long existed and I begrudgingly picked another.
Despite all these criticism here are some helpful tips to get the most out out of your ILP and make it a memorable experience:
First and foremost, find it and set it up yourself. The only requirements for an ILP is that it needs to be roughly two hours of unpaid work a week. This gives you the freedom to pick from the entirety of Philadelphia’s resources. Find something you love and commit. The energy you excerpt to find that perfect internship, has the opportunity to come back 10 fold. Some of the best of these self made ILP’s include working at the Phillies’ Stadium or at the Philadelphia Inquire.
The second thing is get to know the people at your ILP. Make a friendly environment that changes an ILP from a school requirement to a hobby. Invest yourself in the community and maybe meet some new friends.
I don’t want to disregard the hard work that is done by the ILP coordinator. After all, both of my ILP’s were set up through the catalogue, one at Philly Aids Thrift and the other at The Mütter Museum, and I loved both of them. What made them so special to me was that they both applied to my interests: non-profit community work and medical science. Now I’m going on to study nursing in college. If you take advantage of your ILP opportunities, you could have the same luck.