Polk State student’s internship at Citrus Connection turns into rewarding career

Posted on by Polk Newsroom

Carina Chaitoo was intrigued when she learned of the internship opportunities available through Polk State College. “Something just made me apply,” said Chaitoo, whose internship with Citrus Connection led to her career as a human resources generalist and as coordinator for the organization’s internship program.

Chaitoo moved from Trinidad and Tobago in 2016 and graduated from Lakeland Senior High School in 2017.

“My family really wanted me to attend college in America,” said Chaitoo, a first-generation-in-college student. “I chose Polk State College because it was affordable and close to my home. I’ve met a lot of really good people there who have helped me with my career.”

She was working full-time and attending Polk State part-time when she achieved her Associate in Arts degree in 2022. She landed her internship at Citrus Connection in June of that year.

“I wasn’t expecting a full-time job, but I gave it my best, I gave it my all, and my boss saw that and encouraged me to apply for the HR assistant position,” Chaitoo said. She has since been promoted to HR generalist. “My boss has also appointed me as the intern coordinator.”

She noted the culture and the people at both Citrus Connection and Polk State as her favorite things about her job and the College.

“This experience has allowed me to learn what it’s like to be on the other side of the spectrum,” she explained. “From being responsible for timesheets and scheduling to connecting with our youth from high schoolers through college students. It’s been a really valuable experience.”

Coincidentally, Polk State announced its new degree concentration in Human Resources Management when she assumed her role as an intern at Citrus Connection.

“I was really excited that Polk State was offering the Human Resources [Management concentration]. That really helps me in the work that I do now. For example, employment law, recruiting and retention, personnel…,” she explained.

Chaitoo is pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Supervision and Management with a Human Resources Management concentration and is also a member of Polk State’s HR Club, a Mid-Florida SHRM Chapter.

Chaitoo strongly encourages students to apply for and participate in internships. She previously wanted to be a teacher, but her internship introduced her to new possibilities.

“I would highly recommend that students do the research, apply for internships, and get that real-life experience to be in that career because you may think you want to do something and find out that you are unable to do it or that you want to do something else,” Chaitoo explained.

She added that Polk State has the resources, connections, and support for students to find, apply for, and land valuable internships.

“Polk State is a great start for people who want to build a career,” Chaitoo said. “Polk State has a lot of people to connect with and to help you.”

Students who are interested in internship opportunities should visit polk.edu/internship-program or email internships@polk.edu.