Blue Springs High School senior Joy-Noel Ontman is used to seeing her parents work with immigrants.
Her father, Robert Ontman, has helped buy homes and fix them up for immigrants and refugees and helps them get used to the culture in the United States.
She will get a similar opportunity this summer.
Out of hundreds of applicants, Ontman was accepted to the national Pathways Internship Program through Homeland Security. She’ll be working with U.S. Citizenship and Immgration Services in Lee’s Summit.
Ontman is taking a course at the Summit International Studies Academy and Homeland Security offered the opportunity to those in the class for the first time.
“I’ve been interested in international peoples ever since I was young,” said Ontman, who will start the internship on May 28. “I took the international studies course to pursue that passion. I’ve been looking for a channel for that passion, and I want to help other people. That is a goal in my life.”
Added international studies teacher Curtis Cook: “They are very selective in who they choose for this internship.”
“This is going to give her a head start on anyone else wanting to work for the government. This kind of puts her in an elite club. Then she can work for the state and anywhere in the country.”
Ontman sent in her resume and answered some questions online before being interviewed. She was cleared for the interview by a review board in Minnesota, which reviews applications from students across the nation.
Her group interview was with three leaders of three different branches of Homeland Security. After that, she was cleared for fingerprinting and drug testing.
“I was planning on attending a military academy, so I had to go through a lot of paperwork and interview processes for that.” Ontman said. “That helped prepare for the interview. I didn’t feel too on edge at all.”
Ontman said her previous work experience and the knowledge she’s gained through the international studies class helped her land the internship, along with her experience working at her church as a communications intern.
The class has a student-run business where students deal with clients and pitch ideas for projects for Global Ties KC, which provides a link between international visitors and their local counterparts through professional meetings, school visits, events and home hospitality.
“Working with clients made everything a lot more bearable,” Ontman said. “We create products to help prepare host families to host (foreign exchange) students. It’s like a training process.
“We help them understand what type of culture their student is coming from – like if a student needs a place to pray or a certain type of transportation they are used to.”
Ontman said what she will be doing involves managerial work such as arranging schedules, making sure projects get done on time, responding to emails and answering phone calls.
She said she’s looking forward to the opportunity and said it will help her decide what she wants to do for a career.
“To my knowledge, this is the first time they have offered this to high school students,” Ontman said. “This is new for and the people giving me this opportunity at their offices. It will be a beneficial challenge where I will have to be making decisions. It’s a transition to adulthood.”