Real-world lessons can start with high-school in­tern­ships

Orlando Sentinel - - OPINION - By Me­lanie Diel

GUEST COLUM­NIST

2020 will be a big year. It’s the start of a new decade and a chance for us to shape the next 10 years. For me, it’s the year I will grad­u­ate high school and start college — and be­gin ex­plor­ing what I will do with my ca­reer. One of the things that helped pre­pare me for my next steps was my paid in­tern­ship with Florida Pros­per­ity Part­ner­ship. For Or­lando busi­nesses, 2020 is an op­por­tu­nity to pre­pare more high school stu­dents for their fu­tures through in­tern­ships like mine.

Last sum­mer, I learned what work­ing life might be like along with 16 other high school in­terns through a NAF Fu­ture Ready Lab, an in­tern­ship pro­gram for high school stu­dents to get ex­po­sure to dif­fer­ent ca­reers. We learned how to write pro­fes­sional emails, how to com­mu­ni­cate in an of­fice set­ting, and how to make con­nec­tions with co­work­ers. We lis­tened to pre­sen­ta­tions from em­ploy­ees from dif­fer­ent banks about what they do and got to ask ques­tions about their work.

The most mean­ing­ful part of my in­tern­ship was get­ting to use what I’ve learned to help with real-world prob­lems. We worked in pairs on a re­search project, and my part­ner and I re­searched fi­nan­cial lit­er­acy among fos­ter youth. We vis­ited two fos­ter cen­ters and spoke to both peo­ple who had been in the fos­ter care sys­tem and adults who work with them.

Be­cause my part­ner and I were close in age to the stu­dents we in­ter­viewed, we could re­late to them and un­der­stand their per­spec­tives bet­ter than our adult co­work­ers could. Al­though fos­ter care stu­dents know that man­ag­ing your money is im­por­tant, they have a lot of stress to deal with and per­sonal fi­nance is not al­ways a pri­or­ity.

At school, I at­tend a NAF IT Academy where I gain skills I will need to get a job in tech while also study­ing tra­di­tional sub­jects, so my in­tern­ship part­ner and I cre­ated a mock-up of an app that sim­u­lates choices you make in life, like buy­ing a car or a house, to teach you about credit, sav­ings and other fi­nan­cial tools. I loved that I could use what I was learn­ing in my in­tern­ship to tackle a real-world prob­lem.

Over­all, be­ing an in­tern was so much more help­ful than I ex­pected, and al­lowed me to both build on the things I study in school and get ex­posed to things I didn’t learn in high school. It also helped me build a big­ger net­work to help me achieve my goals.

In 2020, I hope Or­lando busi­nesses make it their New Year’s res­o­lu­tion to give high school­ers the op­por­tu­nity to in­tern. I also hope more stu­dents will take these op­por­tu­ni­ties to ex­plore ca­reers while they are still in high school. While I don’t know ex­actly what my fu­ture holds, I know I am pre­pared be­cause I was given this op­por­tu­nity, and I want ev­ery high schooler to have the same chance to learn. Our en­tire com­mu­nity will be bet­ter for it.

DIANE DIEDERICH/IS­TOCK

Out­side of school hours, stu­dents can learn through in­tern­ships, one colum­nist writes.

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