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Suwanee interns appreciate opportunity

Staff Photo: Keith Farner City of Suwanee interns Zanir Malani, Zach Lawson and April Radford completed summer internships last week. Malani and Radford worked with the events department, while Lawson worked on a website to help small business owners apply for city licenses easier.

Staff Photo: Keith Farner City of Suwanee interns Zanir Malani, Zach Lawson and April Radford completed summer internships last week. Malani and Radford worked with the events department, while Lawson worked on a website to help small business owners apply for city licenses easier.

SUWANEE -- The three interns who worked with the city of Suwanee this summer said the experience was not only a resume booster, but also offered insight into the inner workings of local government.

And two of them expect to be prominent faces at Suwanee Day in September.

The interns weren't paid, but received course credit toward a degree or graduation. They all exceeded the minimum hours worked requirements for their schools, which ranged from 90 to 150 hours.

"You can sit in a classroom all day, but getting out in the real world, that's a real learning experience," said April Radford, one of the interns, a Suwanee resident and University of West Georgia student.

Zach Lawson completed his course work on Friday from Georgia Gwinnett College and plans to move to Korea soon to live with his wife and 6-year-old son near her family.

Radford is in her third year working for the city of Suwanee, but first as an intern. Radford worked with Events Coordinator Amy Doherty on the Great American Campout, Suwanee Day and helped develop a comprehensive timeline for the city.

Radford said her father, who works for the Gwinnett Municipal Association, suggested she look into an internship. The previous two summers, it was simply a summer job; now it's for college credit in her major of geography with a focus on urban planning.

"I gave it a shot," she said. "Didn't think I was going to like it, but have fallen in love and come back year after year."

Radford said she's worked on some of the same projects, but gained responsibility each year.

While Radford has lived in Suwanee most of her life, she didn't realize how much work goes into event planning, until her internship.

"I definitely didn't know how well Suwanee had progressed through the years," she said. "I didn't know all the people who were behind the events. ... I definitely gained a lot of respect for the workers here."

Lawson primarily worked on a website to help small businesses find easier ways to apply for city licenses. Lawson worked with Alison Starnes, the city's downtown and business development manager, who will launch the website soon.

Before the internship began, Lawson said he tried to keep a 'blank slate' of what to expect.

"I had very little sense of local government because in political science, what I focused on was national," Lawson said. "For me it was a learning process, and how they did things here at the city."

Lawson said the internship adds practical experience to his classroom knowledge of political science.

"It shows an expansion of what I'm capable," he said. "Academic-wise I had the background dealing with policy, and coming over and getting some experience with a small government helps me as well."

Lawson said in Korea there are plenty of opportunities to teach English, or speak English for small business and advertising agencies.

Zanir Malani, a student at the Gwinnett School of Mathematics, Science and Technology, who turned 17 in June, is the youngest intern the city has ever had. When Denise Brinson, the city's director of economic and community development, asked his school's internship coordinator about potential candidates, Malani was immediately recommended.

GSMST requires students to complete an internship between their sophomore and junior year.

Malani worked with Radford on Suwanee Day preparations, and plans to work with sponsors and vendors on the day of the event. Malani said his advice to future interns would be to make sure they're passionate about the internship.

"Passion is what drives them, and that's why Suwanee succeeds as a city," he said. "Even as an intern, those who bring passion will see Suwanee grow even more, and it takes a lot of dedication to work here."

Brinson said the city will look to develop the program, and possibly welcome interns year round.

"We just want to form relationships with schools who have formal internship programs," said Brinson, who added almost every city department could benefit from having an intern.