Real-world lessons can start with high-school internships
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.
Outside of school hours, students can learn through internships, one columnist writes.