Castle View student blazes path for future Air Force Academy interns
COLORADO SPRINGS – The first week on the job wasn’t easy for Castle View student Paige Applegate. It rarely is for interns. The Air Force Hockey Team was visiting the facilities to make use of the Hyperoxic Tank- a grueling circuit training workout- and one of the players hadn’t eaten breakfast that morning. As Paige puts it, not having the necessary fuel for the exercise didn’t work out well for the young cadet, and he spent the better part of five minutes vomiting into a nearby trashcan. That’s when her supervising Lieutenant reminded her that it was her turn to take out the trash.
“Oh no, this is not good,” Paige said, laughing as she recalled the mess.
But it wasn’t just any bag of puke. It was historic, because it was being carried in the arms of the USAFA Human Performance Lab’s first ever high school intern. Despite the occasional mop-up duty, she says the experience has been rewarding.
“It’s been a great experience, watching these athletes break records and do incredible things.”
The Human Performance Lab is the Air Force Academy’s premier sports science facility, with stations that look to improve stamina and hand-eye coordination, increase reflex speed, and also provide advanced body metrics for student athletes. The staff is small, and relies on college interns to be able to meet the needs of the cadets that want to use the facilities.
Paige originally wanted to intern with her opthamologist, but her father- an Air Force Academy graduate and current Academy employee himself- convinced her to look for opportunities to work with the Cadets. She sent an email to an Air Force Colonel in charge of the Lab, and within a few weeks she found herself in unprecedented waters for a high schooler.
“He emailed me back and said ‘we’ve never had a high school intern, but we would love to have you be our first’,” said Paige.
Paige is now in her second term interning at the Lab, returning after a break during the second quarter of the school year. Now she’s the one answering questions for student athletes and tour groups alike. Today, she’s giving a tour to Castle View leadership- including Principal Rex Corr and Stacy Hancock, the Internship Coordinator for Castle View. Also in attendance are her mother and grandparents. Looking on as Paige gives the tour is one of her mentors at the Lab.
“We had never had a high school intern,” said Dyana Bollinger, the director of Human Performance Lab. “But the fact that a high school student was wanting to take on an internship of this caliber, showed me she had the passion, and wanted to come in and learn, we knew she would be a shoo-in.”
Bollinger says she has seen Paige grow not only in her knowledge of the facilities, but also as a person and a budding adult.
“When she first arrived here, she was nervous, and seemed pretty shy,” said Bollinger. “Now look at her, she’s a natural, giving a tour and speaking with confidence.”
Above: Tour participants, including Castle View Principal Rex Corr, experience some of the lab stations.
Paige’s internship is certainly important for being a first of its’ kind, but she’s also benefitting from the type of work she’s getting to do in the lab.
“She’s doing things that not many people get to do, and it’s setting her up better than most college level interns coming into this field,” Bollinger said. “She gets to run the tests, she’s a reliable resource for our athletes, and get hands-on with this equipment, and it’s going to set her up nicely depending on the field she chooses to enter.”
It seems that the experience she’s gained since that first messy week on the job has driven her towards one field in particular.
“I’ve learned so much more than I ever thought I would,” Paige said about her internship with the lab. “I originally wanted to be in the medical field, but now I’m definitely more focused on sports health and exercise science and physiology, and I know that’s what I want to do now.”
And as for internship opportunities at the Academy, Paige might have just cleared a path for future Castle View students, too.
“She’s done a fabulous job, and she’s definitely opened the door for us to consider other high school interns down the road,” said Bollinger as Paige’s tour came to a close. “She’s set the bar pretty high, though.”