Providing stipends for internships

By Melissa Bouse

If multitasking were an Olympic sport, Karen VanderMass would be in medal contention.

VanderMass was already busy caring for her two young children while her husband worked two full-time jobs when last fall she decided to add going to college full-time into the mix. She enrolled at Northern Essex Community College (NECC) in Massachusetts as a nursing student, fully aware of the rigorous schedule, but determined to achieve her goal of one day caring for patients.

“I was a special education teacher before becoming a stay-at-home mom about four years ago. After Covid, I started thinking about what else I could do, and I thought there are so many possibilities with nursing,” VanderMass says.

A key part of the nursing program is participating in a clinical class. Like internships, clinicals give students the opportunity to learn in real-life settings. VanderMass was excited to start hers at Holy Family Hospital in Methuen. She was even more excited to find out she could get paid for her time through a new stipend program.

“At the time, I was really wanting to go to work and to contribute to the family. I was looking for part-time jobs at $15 per hour, and it would have cost more for me to get a babysitter than I would have made,” VanderMass says. “This stipend really lifted the burden and literally put food on our table. I know there are others in my classes who can benefit in that way, too.”

Helping with extra expenses

VanderMass was one of the first recipients of the stipends, funded by the NECC Fund. The stipends aim to assist students in completing a for-credit, unpaid or underpaid internship or other experiential learning. Eligible students receive either $2,500 (for unpaid positions) or $1,500 (for underpaid positions) stipends for roles that require at least 120 hours per semester. This semester, $1,500 stipends will also be extended to students whose internships are less than 120 hours.

“Experiential learning provides great opportunities for students to apply their education, explore career possibilities and build their network, connections, skills and confidence,” says Sandy Rochon, NECC’s director of career services. “While these are valuable experiences, we know that some students are challenged by expenses incurred to participate.”

The stipend eases the burden for students who may not otherwise take an unpaid internship because of additional costs for transportation, parking, childcare or reduced paid working hours, adds Katie Yeaton-Hromada, who coordinates the college’s career services and internship programs.

The funding is open to students in any degree program, including all health programs with clinical, criminal justice students who have an internship requirement, and more. Ten students received internship stipends during the fall semester.

As for VanderMass, she’s on track to graduate in May 2025 and hopes to go into either post-anesthesia care or mother-baby care. She’s encouraging others to take advantage of programs like the internship stipends at NECC to help them reach their goals.

“I’m investing all my time and money into my education; it’s great to know that Northern Essex is just as invested in me.”

This article originally appeared in CC Daily.


Melissa Bouse

is director of public relations at Northern Essex Community College in Massachusetts.