When most of us were trying to figure out how to break a particularly intense case of summer blues – thanks COVID-19! – a group of young Miamians was busy making inroads to a successful future.
The participants of the Summer Youth Internship Program (SYIP) who worked at The Children’s Trust spent five full weeks getting valuable career experience and putting in real life work – including taking charge on projects, getting up for 8 a.m. conference calls and learning from a variety of professionals and public officials.
Far from letting the limitations that the coronavirus imposed on them hold them down, the eight interns used the opportunity to sharpen their online skills and absorbed a wealth of experience, while also contributing to The Children’s Trust projects in the summer. The Trust interns were among more than 2,000 who were placed after going through a formal interview process. In addition to the invaluable experience gained, they also earned a financial stipend for their efforts.
Katherine Mesa, a rising senior at Coral Reef Senior High School, said she knew she was in for a worthy experience early on in the internship when she watched real life negotiation skills from Chief Public Policy and Community Engagement Officer Donovan Lee-Sin. Mesa was one of two interns who applied for and won a $1,000 grant to create a census video to share the importance of completing the census for the future of our community.
“I had the chance to meet with different Florida House of Representatives, cohost a (community event) and meet with different departments, organizations and partners of The Trust,” Mesa said in a video about her experience. “It’s my dream to have a career where I can help advocate for the community and make a difference. This internship has confirmed my passion for that.”
The interns were all part of The Trust’s Youth Advisory Committee (YAC), so they were used to donating time and effort to good causes, but the internship brought them a new appreciation for the virtual workplace and taught lessons for their future careers.
The other census grant winning intern was Ingrid Arias, a rising junior at Westland Hialeah Senior High. Arias, who worked with The Trust’s Communication Department, talked about the advice and connections she gained from her internship. “I made some real connections, loved the Communications Team and also got to meet with other interns and made some friends along the way,” she said.
The professionalism and energy of the interns impressed Trust President and CEO Jim Haj, who lauded the interns at a special event celebrating the end of the internship on August 5. “I want to congratulate you on the presentations, they were absolutely phenomenal,” said Haj, after watching each intern go through a Zoom presentation on their experience. Although Haj said there were new challenges this year, he complimented them on how they adjusted to the digital workplace. “We pivoted like you pivoted. We would have loved to have you in the office, but you made the best of it, you really did. We are exceptionally proud of the work you put forth.”
He also said the benefits of the internship would be more than monetary and have lasting effects. “The exposure. The people who you’ve met. These are things that are going to stick with you for a very long time. As you enter college and the workforce, you probably made some (important) connections as well,” he added.
For the past half-decade the Summer Youth Internship Program has brought together The Children’s Trust, Miami- Dade County, Miami-Dade County Public Schools (M-DCPS), the South Florida Workforce Investment Board and the Foundation for New Education Initiatives to sponsor about 3,000 paid student internships annually at a variety of organizations over the summer. Even with the coronavirus shuttering so much of our outdoor lives, the internship program survived and thrived. As well as receiving monetary compensation, the internship offered interns college or high school credit.
If there is any doubt about the aspirations and high hopes of this particular group of interns it was quickly dispelled during their wrap-up presentations. Several of them detailed their career goals, which included hoping to be mayors, governors, the Vice President and, of course, President.
For more information on the Summer Youth Internship Program visit Miami.GetMyInterns.org.