O’Neill Criminal Justice major Tyler Adams started his first college internship before he even started classes. It was summer 2022 and he had just finished high school.
“In previous years, I would be in conditioning for the next school-year sport, but that was over,” he says. “And I’m just not a person who can sit and do nothing.”
Even though he was still three months away from beginning his courses with O’Neill, Adams was already plugged in. He received an email from the O’Neill School with an opportunity connected to his major: an internship in emergency management with the Indiana State Fairgrounds.
“It connected with working in public safety and gave me the opportunity to help and meet new people in a new environment while gaining experience for my future career,” he explains.
Adams had some experience already. Coming from a family of first responders, Adams had spent one year in high school studying law enforcement and another year earning his firefighter certifications.
He sent his resume to Indiana State Fairgrounds’ Director of Safety and Security Jennifer Esterline, an O’Neill adjunct faculty member and O’Neill alumna (BSCJ’12, MSCJPS’15). She had two paid internship opportunities available: a safety and security intern, or an internship within the Fairgrounds’ Emergency Operations Center. Esterline brought Adams on as a safety and security intern.
Adams worked at several events at the fairgrounds, including the Indiana State Fair. He responded to emergencies and helped conduct field investigations, documented what happened, and assessed potential hazards. He gathered witness statements, photographs of the scenes, and created incident reports.
“There were days when it was stressful,” Adams admits. “We would jump from one call to another to another, but it was still great. Since the day the fair ended, I’ve been excited to work at the fair again.”
But just because the fair was over didn’t mean Adams was done. Instead, Esterline offered him a job as a coordinator with her office. He completed additional training and now works wherever he is needed. As his workload and responsibilities have expanded, so have the lessons he’s learned.
“Patience is the biggest lesson,” he says with a laugh. “Patience with assignments, with balancing work and school, and with the people you encounter on the job. Sometimes you have to talk to someone who isn’t being very patient or respectful to you. But you still have to remain calm and patient with them. That has been a great skill for me to practice.”
He adds that his on-the-job experiences have helped him better understand his coursework as well. He’s able to recall his own real-world situations during classes on emergency management classes and compare how he responded to what’s being taught.
Being able to draw on that first-hand experience is why he says other students should take advantage of the next round of Indiana State Fairgrounds internship opportunities when applications open in November—even if they’re not within the criminal justice or public safety degree paths.
“You get to learn new skill sets—multitasking, time management, the responsibility of being there for people who are going through emergencies,” he explains. “It’s also a good opportunity for anyone to get outside their bubble.”
But he stresses that even if the fairgrounds internship isn’t of interest, students shouldn’t give up.
“Look for an internship related to what you are interested in because I guarantee you there’s one out there,” he stresses. “You won’t know if you’ll like that field as a career until you try something in that environment.”
For now, Adams says he plans to stay at the Fairgrounds for his foreseeable future. He isn’t sure how his plans will evolve during the next three years of his college career, but he does know he’ll remain committed to a bigger purpose: helping his community.
“A lot of people say they want to help their community or that something needs to be done, but not a lot of people take the initiative to actually do it,” he says. “Whatever I’m doing as a career down the road, it’s definitely going to involve helping my community.”