One of our interns did work that traveled to the International Space Station and why you should hire interns


Last week, I wrote about the ripple effect of believing in others. You’ll go far when people believe in you, but you’ll go even farther when you believe in others. What if I told you that my belief in an intern helped take our work to the International Space Station? Before I tell you about that, let’s provide some history and context.

Back in the spring of 2016, former Fayette Chamber CEO Virginia Gibbs approached me about having my company participate in the Fayette County Public Schools Work-based Learning (WBL) Program. I had worked closely with Virginia during her Chamber tenure and was always impressed by the quality of her work. Although I was a bit skeptical that we had enough work for an intern, I trusted Virginia and accepted her invitation to participate. I’m glad that I did.

In the summer of 2016, we onboarded our first intern, Alexandra Ochoa. It was a paid internship because I think it’s important for students to know their work is valued. Paying interns also ensures a certain degree of accountability. She was both a part-time employee of our company and a participant in the WBL program while a senior at Sandy Creek High School. We had her work on website updates, which helped our clients, helped us, and gave her some real work to put in her portfolio. It was a big success, and we decided to continue in the program.

Our WBL interns for the 2019-2020 school year. (L-R) MacKenzie Duncan, Joe Domaleski, Brandon Worrell, and Liberty Harris.
Pictured here with our WBL interns for the 2019-2020 school year hamming it up for the camera. (L-R) MacKenzie Duncan, Joe Domaleski, Brandon Worrell, and Liberty Harris. Brandon was the 2020 Valedictorian at Sandy Creek High School and is currently studying at MIT. Photo/Paige Wright.

The next school year, Melanie Duncan became the new WBL Coordinator, and we’ve enjoyed working with Melanie ever since. She has paired us up with so many great students over the years. The interns have come from all five Fayette County high schools and they’ve worked in a variety of positions—graphic designer, web developer, marketing consultant, writer, and more. All of our interns have gone on to college, including GSU, KSU, Georgia Tech, UGA, and even MIT! Some have chosen to continue working for us part-time while in college, something we enjoy doing.

In addition to great high school interns, we’ve also enjoyed having college interns over the years. Unlike the high school interns who work for us an entire school year, most of the college internships are only for the summer—which makes it a little harder since the time frame is so short. This summer, we picked up our first graduate school intern, Vinay Revanuru, who’s finishing up his Master’s Degree in Data Science at GSU. I had to brush up on my statistics and machine learning algorithms just to keep up with Vinay. One of the many benefits of an internship is that it keeps you on your toes, staying ahead of these motivated students. More on that in a bit.

This past school year, we got a chance to work with the one and only Zavion Green. Zavion just graduated from Sandy Creek High School and will be attending college at USC in Los Angeles next semester. It was my honor to work with him this past year, and I think I learned just as much from him as he might have learned from us. He worked on a lot of very special graphic design projects over the year, including one that went up to the International Space Station!

In the fall of last year, I was approached by a friend of mine (and fellow amateur radio operator) Jim Reed, N4BFR. Jim is the social media coordinator for ARISS—Amateur Radio on the International Space Station. ARISS is a nonprofit that focuses on Science, Technology, Engineering, Math (STEM) as it relates to amateur radio and the International Space Station (ISS). The ARISS program was created and is managed by an international consortium of amateur radio organizations and space agencies, including the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in the USA.

ARISS wanted a new logo for its 40th anniversary, and I told Jim we would be happy to do it. Not only would we do it, but we would assign it to a student—Zavion Green. What better way to promote the mission of ARISS than to have a student intern help with the logo redesign. Zavion worked directly with the client, exceeding their expectations and mine. ARISS decided to send the logo up to the ISS for a special Slow-Scan TV (SSTV) transmission back down to Earth. Yes, Zavion’s work went up to the ISS! Here’s a video I asked Zavion to put together which documents the whole project.

Not every internship project goes to outer space, but almost all of them make an impact in the community. We’re now in our eighth year of the WBL program and are already planning to take on two interns for the next school year. I’m a big believer in internships and want to encourage my fellow business and nonprofit leaders to consider taking on interns—especially those from our local schools.

Here are some great reasons you should consider hiring interns:

Pictured here with our 2021-2022 WBL Interns. (L-R) Abby Paver (who continues working with us part-time while studying at KSU) and Julianne York (who's studying abroad through Georgia Tech). Photo/Joe Domaleski
Pictured here with our 2021-2022 WBL Interns. (L-R) Abby Paver (who continues working with us part-time while studying at KSU) and Julianne York (who’s studying abroad through Georgia Tech). Photo/Joe Domaleski

Fresh Perspectives – Interns can foster innovation by bringing new, creative ideas and perspectives. I’ve seen firsthand how that can invigorate a business, where some tasks and projects can get old.

Building a Talent Pipeline – Internships can serve as a trial period to evaluate potential future team members. An internship period allows a company to evaluate someone’s skills, work ethic, and cultural fit.

Increased Productivity – Interns can take on routine tasks, freeing up experienced employees to work on more strategic and complex work. This can lead to an overall increase in productivity and efficiency. What might be stale to the experienced person is often seen as exciting and new to an intern.

Cost-Effective Labor – Interns are obviously not paid as much as full-time employees. This makes it a cost-effective way to get additional help, especially for short-term projects or busy seasons. However, as stated earlier, I think it’s important to pay interns and, personally, I don’t believe in unpaid internships. Young people need to know their work is valued.

Enhanced Company Brand and Reputation – Offering internships can enhance a business’s reputation as a supportive and nurturing environment for learning and growth. This can attract more talent and create positive word-of-mouth. We’ve gotten new clients because we work with interns. I have yet to find a client who objects to having a supervised intern work on our projects.

Developing Leadership Skills – Managing interns provides existing staff members with an opportunity to develop their supervisory and mentoring skills. Over the years, I’ve had various members of our leadership team supervise interns. I’ve personally learned a lot about managing young people by having interns.

Supporting Local Education and Community – By providing internships, businesses contribute to the education and development of local students. This can strengthen community ties and build goodwill. Young people are the future of our community. As a middle-aged person, let me be the first to say that it’s not productive to complain about the work ethic of young people if you’re not doing something to improve the situation. Internships give students the opportunity to do real, meaningful work.

Fresh Energy and Enthusiasm – Interns can bring a high level of enthusiasm and eagerness to learn, which can boost the morale of the entire team. This can help create a more dynamic work environment for all concerned. Over the years, I’ve seen how interns can get our whole team excited about projects. It’s easy to fall into a stale routine, but a motivated intern who’s looking at something for the first time can rekindle a sense of excitement.

Flexibility – Internships can be designed to suit the specific needs of the business. Whether it’s a summer internship, a part-time role during the school year, or a project-based position, businesses can tailor the internship program to fit their requirements. A word of caution about this—not all interns (or their school sponsors) truly understand this. The Fayette County WBL program does, but many colleges don’t. One summer, I had an intern come up to me and tell me that they miscalculated the number of intern hours they needed for their degree. They asked if it was possible for them to work an 80-hour week during their final internship week! I had to say “no” and I even called that student’s professor urging caution about labor laws. Always ask the prospective intern for the paperwork documenting the requirements for their internship.

Support for Special Projects – Interns can be particularly valuable for undertaking special projects that may otherwise be neglected due to a lack of resources. This can include market research, social media management, or developing new processes. In the case of Zavion, it was a win-win-win situation for him, for ARISS, and for me personally watching him support a meaningful nonprofit, educational organization.

There are so many benefits of having an intern work in your organization. It’s become commonplace for older people, like me, to complain about the work ethic of younger generations. But have you really given young people a chance? The irony isn’t lost on me that I’m a member of Generation X, the original “slacker” generation. I guess there’s a natural tendency for older generations to look down on the younger ones. Now that I’m in middle age, my perspectives have changed. I hope I’m not in the minority, but I’m very optimistic about what young people bring to the table.

Fayette Chamber CEO Leonardo McClarty, CFC Owner Joe Domaleski, Fayette Schools WBL Coordinator Melanie Duncan, and CFC Intern (and recent SCHS Graduate) Zavion Green meet at Trilith to discuss the internship program in early 2024. Photo/Trey Strawn
Fayette Chamber CEO Leonardo McClarty, CFC Owner Joe Domaleski, Fayette Schools WBL Coordinator Melanie Duncan, and CFC Intern (and recent SCHS Graduate) Zavion Green meet at Trilith to discuss the internship program in early 2024. Photo/Trey Strawn

Internships are more than just opportunities for students to gain experience; they are also helpful for businesses seeking to innovate, grow, and connect with the community. At my company, we have benefited from internship programs, and I think our interns feel the same way. Our former interns have done very well in college. Our first few interns have graduated college and now have very successful careers. I’m proud of them all.

As our experience has shown, investing in interns can lead to remarkable outcomes, sometimes even reaching the heights of outer space! I encourage my peers in the community to consider having internships, particularly those afforded by our local schools. Your interns will learn a lot about the value and impact of “real work,” and I bet you learn even more from them. If you want to know more about the Fayette County Schools WBL program, I’m more than happy to put you in touch with the right people—just let me know. My contact information is below. Thanks again to all of our former, current, and future interns – your belief in us inspires our belief in you.

[Joe Domaleski, a Fayette County resident for 25+ years, is the owner of Country Fried Creative – an award-winning digital marketing agency located in Peachtree City. His company was the Fayette Chamber’s 2021 Small Business of the Year.  Joe is a husband, father of three grown children, and proud Army veteran.  He has an MBA from Georgia State University and enjoys sharing his perspectives drawing from thirty years of business leadership experience. Joe is a recipient of the Peachtree City Rotary Club Business Leader of the Year Award for 2024. Sign up for the Country Fried Creative newsletter to get marketing and business articles directly in your inbox. You can connect with Joe directly on LinkedIn for more insights and updates.]