Skip to main content
At a recent meeting, Kiera Ritchey '23 talked with middle school students about setting boundaries.

Senior internship bridges grade levels, creates new program

Kiera Ritchey ‘23 has a long-standing interest in psychology. And, because The Gregory School provides opportunities for our older and younger students to interact and learn from one another, Kiera has gotten to know and enjoy engaging with our middle school students. When it came time to devise her required 60-hour senior internship, Kiera already had the perfect match in her mind, and through a lot of hard work, the Mental Health Education Group was born.

“What really pushed me to move forward with this internship were the middle school students I met through other events and classes,” Kiera said. “There didn't seem to be a space on campus where those kids could go to just learn the facts, with zero pressure to participate or even speak, as that can be really uncomfortable in a school setting.”

The primary goal of the group is to create a safe and pressure-free space for interested students to learn not only about mental health, but also valuable life skills. “We tend to focus on skills relating to mental health and emotions, but those skills can be applied to any situation that these students might face as they transition into high school,” Kiera said. 

Middle school students choosing to be in the group meet with Kiera on Thursdays at 11:45 in the Counseling Center. Parents and guardians were made aware of the project, with the option that their student not participate. All meetings are supervised by one of our school counselors, Mr. Saul Ostroff or Mrs. Ashley Hazan, although Mr. Ostroff noted, “Besides being present and listening, we haven’t had to do much of anything. Kiera keeps it light and non-threatening and healthy. She did her research, knows her audience, reads the room, and has created a respectful and safe environment for all participants.”

The success of the group is a credit to Kiera’s hard work and to The Gregory School Senior Internship Program (SIP). Kiera explained that starting the group, “took a ton of communication, and I really had to learn how to be consistent and thorough in my emails and meetings with the school faculty. It could be frustrating at times, but Ms. (Lisa) Bodden, my SIP advisor, encouraged me to keep pushing forward even when things were delayed for weeks. I also refined my email writing skills over the many months of planning, which has been a great skillset in communicating with college reps!”

Kiera’s favorite part of her internship has been getting to know the students she now works with regularly, adding that they “always manage to make me laugh about something during our meetings, whether it be shredded paper plates or trying to breathe in funny patterns (both are coping skills actually).”

The feeling is mutual. “Kids will not miss their weekly Thursday with Kiera!” Mr. Ostroff said.

Kiera also appreciates the knowledge and skills she has gained in doing her internship, from learning much more about mental health, to applied experience in planning, effective writing, public speaking, and networking. 

Kiera’s advice to future seniors is simple: “Pick something that you actually want to do and think you would enjoy doing, not just something that checks off the boxes. It's going to be miserable doing something you don't like for 60 hours, so think of this as a required opportunity. You make it what it is, so make it enjoyable.” She also recommends that students “talk to your SIP advisors about anything you're unsure of. They're an amazing resource and know what they're doing.”

“To invent something in this school, where there are already so many programs, is a formidable task, and Kiera was up to it,” Mr. Ostroff said. “I hope that when she graduates, someone else will take over and we will have a new tradition and a legacy that Kiera started from nothing.”