Student intern opportunities abound at BTI

Boyce Thompson Institute’s 2019 student interns (left to right) Rohit Lal (Ithaca High School), Hunter Rollins (Candor High School), Kael Eldred (Groton High School), Kade Eldred (GHS) and Aspen Makela (Spencer-Van Etten High School).
Boyce Thompson Institute’s 2019 student interns (left to right) Rohit Lal (Ithaca High School), Hunter Rollins (Candor High School), Kael Eldred (Groton High School), Kade Eldred (GHS) and Aspen Makela (Spencer-Van Etten High School).
Photo provided

The Boyce Thompson Institute Operations High School Internship Program was launched as a pilot program in the summer of 2019, with opportunities for five high school students to work in various BTI operational areas, including procurement, information technology, finance, lab services, computational biology, greenhouse and mechanical departments as paid interns.

Two Groton students, Kade and Kael Eldred, along with Hunter Rollins, a freshman at Candor who attended Groton through the sixth grade, Rohit Lal from Ithaca High School and Aspen Makela from Spencer-Van Etten, made up the fledgling group who immersed themselves into this unique seven-week internship program geared toward providing them hands-on workforce development opportunities.

The objective was to provide students real-life work experience and exposure to operational areas in order to build a workforce development pipeline equipped to support scientific research beyond the lab.

Each intern was appointed an individual mentor to assist and guide them in their selected area of work. The students worked alongside their mentors daily and shared in many of their professional development activities to gain new skills and hone existing skills.

BTI also held “Lunch and Learn” sessions with the interns to provide them with professional advice and tools to utilize in their future career journey. A local CPA firm and the BTI IT team taught them the importance of student loans, tax forms, credit cards and credit scores, interest rates, internet scams and email etiquette.

Groton High School senior Kade Eldred worked alongside Aaron Callahan, BTI’s IT manager. Kade said he worked on, with and in computers, taking them apart, updating and recovering them.

“I helped people with general needs as well as lend them anything they needed such as adapters or power cords,” he said.

Callahan said he appreciated Kade’s attitude and willingness to learn.

“From the initial hiring process through to his final day with us, I was thoroughly impressed by this young man’s professionalism, work ethic and ability to quickly learn new skills,” Callahan said.

Kade’s brother, Kael Eldred, GHS sophomore, was able to work in two different areas: the stockroom and the greenhouse.

“Kael is a cheerful and steady worker, always ready to help out,” Greenhouse manager Brian Bell said. “I have appreciated Kael’s positive attitude and willingness to help out with any job.”

Kael described what his work experience looked like.

“I would clean up the greenhouses and throw away autoclaved compost and wash dirty pots that were used in the greenhouses and other places around BTI,” he said.

Kael’s work in the stockroom entailed restocking shelves, delivering packages within BTI and sometimes proofing different purchase requisitions to “make sure everything was good when it was ordered.”

Rollins worked in the lab services area, Lal in the Computational Biology Center and Makela in the business office, all under the guidance of Sophia Darling, vice president of finance and operations, and the mentorship of Alicia Woodin, human resources assistant.

Darling is a GHS alumna herself. Many know her as an avid runner and youth soccer coach, as president of the Groton Board of Education or as one of the owners of Darling Farm, along with her husband, Nick.

Having been an integral part of this pilot program at BTI from its inception, Darling is extremely pleased with the process and outcome and looks forward to recruiting another group of high school students for the summer of 2020.

The BTI program offers students a short-term job experience in a field they may be considering. It’s an opportunity to learn about business operations and different career options, network with professionals and build long-term working relationships. BTI believes that the program outcomes are more impactful when they are offered at the high school level, when students are just beginning to think meaningfully about their future career paths.

Importance is placed on building an inclusive and diverse internship cohort, including rural students, underrepresented minorities and potential first-generation college students. These paid positions are provided to encourage participation from students who would be required to hold a paid summer job.

The 2019 program was 100% funded by BTI. In addition to the positive feelings associated with supporting the educational opportunities of the talented young people in this program, BTI also hosted an intern meet-and-greet with the students’ parents, grandparents, siblings and mentors, from which the feedback from teachers, interns and their families, mentors, staff and the community was overwhelmingly positive. Many expressed the positive impact the experience had on the student.

Darling would also like to extend sponsorship opportunities to anyone who might like to be a part of this.

“BTI is excited to continue this program for future students,” she said. “We are seeking donations to help offset costs associated with hosting the program in 2020 and beyond. Your gift will be acknowledged in the BTI annual report, website and on our donor wall.”

As members of the BTI community, sponsors will also be invited to attend BTI events throughout the year, but anonymous support will also be respectfully accommodated.

Students who are passionate about science and interested in applying for one of these paid summer internships may do so at

For more information about sponsorship of this program, please contact BTI’s human resource department at

Groton on the Inside appears weekly. Submit news ideas to Linda Competillo, or 607-227-4922.

In brief:

Pancakes in McLean

The McLean fire station will host its popular monthly breakfast buffet from 8 to 11 a.m. Sunday, Feb. 16. They will be serving regular, chocolate chip and blueberry pancakes, French toast, scrambled eggs, home-fried potatoes, sausage, ham, sausage gravy with biscuits, an assortment of juices, regular and decaf coffee, tea, hot chocolate, chocolate milk and water.

Warm apple topping and applesauce will also be on the menu. Cost for adults is $8, senior citizens $7 and all children $5. For further information, call 607-838-8249 or 607-838-3444.

Activities for all at the library

In preparation for the renovation, the Groton Public Library needs help to transport heavy boxes of books to the basement. If you are able to help with this, call library director, Sara Knobel, at (607) 898-5055.

The monthly community meal at the Groton Public Library, which is free and open to the public, will take place at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 18. Come enjoy beef stroganoff. Just a reminder that free, healthy food, supplied by the Friendship Donation Network, is dropped off every Tuesday evening at 6 p.m. First come, first served.

The monthly Library Book Club meeting is at 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 20. This month’s book is “A Cold Day in Hell” by Lissa Marie Redmond. Redmond is a retired Buffalo police homicide detective who brings a front row seat to criminal behavior with her cold case detective series featuring her alter ego, Lauren Riley. Stop in and pick up a copy.

Make plans now for “T(w)een Night” from 7 to 9 p.m. Friday, Feb. 28. “Frozen II” will be on the screen. This night will feature only the movie, pizza and popcorn. There will be no computers or games. For ages 9-18, must pre-register or parents must sign the students in when dropping them off.

Clothing Closet needs donations

The Clothing Closet, 160 Main St., where women, children and men may receive gently used clothing completely free of charge, would also like to remind everyone to stop by during its regular hours from 10 a.m. to noon on the second and fourth Wednesdays and Saturdays of every month.

Donations of clothing are also gratefully accepted during these hours. The closet is particularly in need of clothing for girls, size 4 through junior sizes. Clothing should be clean and odor-free with no rips or stains.

Help Ronald McDonald House

Groton Elementary School is collecting can tabs for the Ronald McDonald House (RMH). The RMH makes about 75 cents a pound for the aluminum weight. The house supports families in so many ways by helping families with children who are ill or in need of specialized medical care. The students, families and community are truly helping when they send in the tabs.


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