Real-world experience: Noblesville High School student interns at county leadership organization


For the past 10 years, Noblesville High School has offered an internship where seniors can work in fields according to their interests.

Grant Cummings, a 17-year-old senior, is an intern this school year for the Hamilton County Leadership Academy, an organization that offers a 10-month leadership program.

Cummings said the internship is an opportunity to gain real-world experience. He said he enjoys social media marketing and creating graphics and other materials that get a market area to invest in something.

“I was excited for the opportunity, but I really just didn’t know what to expect because HCLA is something I’d never even heard of before starting this,” Cummings said. “But it’s actually really cool because it’s just something that has a ton of networking with business leaders across all Hamilton County.”

The internship program at NHS started in January 2013, according to internship coordinator Mark Wilkinson. As the program grew, the internship coordinator position was created at the high school, the internship program combined with the cadet teaching program and a second internship coordinator was added.

This year, 240 students are participating in the program, which is a class format with assignments and grades that seniors can take for one or two semesters.

Wilkinson and Dan Nicholson, the other internship coordinator, meet with students during their junior year to determine what interests they have and then help arrange placements.

Instead of seniors having to choose or be placed with a business or organization from a set list each year, coordinators talk with the seniors first and, after that initial conversation, try to match that student with a business or organization that aligns with their interests.

“We welcome all students in our program. We don’t put barriers in their way,” Wilkinson said. “We’ll meet the students where they are and try to accommodate their interest as best we can. It’s not always perfect, but we think we find opportunities for them that inform them about what’s possible.”

Internships are available in the fields of law, manufacturing and city and county government, among other areas.

Cummings reports to his internship at the HCLA’s office three times a week after lunch. He said his favorite part of the internship is the variety of tasks. In August, he helped with the HCLA’s Starting Retreat.

“In a larger business, you’ll have a whole department of people focused on just the marketing,” Cummings said.  “But here, it’s like really all hands don deck, so anyone can have an idea and contribute to marketing. So, I think that’s kind of cool. Just everyone gets to have all the process instead of focusing on just one thing.”

Diana Coyle, the HCLA’s executive director, enjoys providing opportunities for students through the internship.

“I am really passionate about equipping people with pathways (and) resources so they can be successful on their route,” Coyle said. “And this allows us to execute what the program in our organization does, but it also allows me to really continue to shape and fill my cup on what I see is my passion and purpose in the career field I’m in.”

Coyle said she was eager to know what Cummings wanted out of the internship to make the experience rewarding for him. She said he is “committed to a vision for his future,” which she admires.

“I think that is proof of someone who’s ready to gear up for that next step in their journey,” Coyle said.

Cummings, who aspires to attend college, will continue in his internship until the end of the school year.

For more on the internship program at Noblesville High School, visit

Diana Coyle, Grant Cummings and HCLA’s Program Coordinator Carol Paddock work on the menu for the Holiday Luncheon. (Photo by Elissa Maudlin)

What is HCLA?

The Hamilton County Leadership Academy is a 10-month program that helps create informed leaders in Hamilton County, according to the organization,  which notes that it values community, learning and strategic flexibility.

Diana Coyle, executive director of HCLA, said it has a 30-year legacy and more than 800 alumni. Noblesville Schools Education Foundation leader Adriann Young is the president of the HCLA board.

The leadership program begins with a two-day retreat in August; continues with one session per month from September to June; and concludes with a retreat in June. Participants can’t miss more than two sessions, must attend two community meetings — such as school board meetings, city council meetings, county council meetings — and attend community collaboration meetings, which are small groups led by HCLA alumni, according to the organization.


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