High school students from underserved communities across Los Angeles County are spending this summer getting paid to intern at some of the most influential corporations.
By Blake Carter
Many teenagers’ first jobs are at the mall, or at a fast-food restaurant. While those jobs are a good introduction to the workforce, young employees typically do not get much career training. The LA Promise Fund stepped in and created The Intern Project to give high school students a more meaningful first job experience.
“The idea behind this program came about when our chairwoman, who has ties to the entertainment industry, got great internships for her children,” said L.A. Promise Fund Chief Program Officer Claudia Keller. “But she realized that there’s a whole population of kids who can’t get these positions.”
The students in this program are able to break into the workforce at major corporations, and they are able to work for companies that match their future career choice.
Recently the students attended an interview skills and resume building workshop at Microsoft’s Playa Visit offices. Many of the students had never created a resume or sat through a job interview.
“I learned interview skills, so when employer asks, ‘Why should I choose you out of all of the other applicants,’ I should ask them what they are looking for in an employee,” said Anaiya Brown, junior at Culver City High School.
Brown is planning on attending a local four-year university where she will major in business and acting.
“This paid internship is a great experience because it’s revolving around the entertainment industry, which I want to be a part of,” she said. “So this experience gives me a feeling of what I’ll be doing in the future.”
Recent Manual Arts High School graduate Keyron Colvin is heading to USC, where he will major in business and computer science. Being able to attend a workshop at Microsoft is beneficial to his future career because he wants to work at a software company and eventually have his own startup company. This is his first job, and he will be able to use the skills that he is learning in the future.
“The program has been teaching me a lot of professional skills that I didn’t have before,” Colvin said. “It’s really helpful because I’m learning how to conduct myself in a professional environment.”
These students are getting career training that many people did not have access to.
“I think it’s really important that they’re getting such a head start at such a young age,” said Microsoft Community Development Specialist Karla Torres. “I took some career development workshops when I was in high school, but never did I have this hands-on approach, or never did I have a paid internship. So it’s incredible that these students are getting access to these resources at such a young age.”
It is also important that these students take home a paycheck, opposed to having an unpaid internship.
“In designing this program, we realized that these kids need to work,” Keller said. “They need to save for college and support their families. So they can’t be unpaid internships. They get paid at least minimum wage. So they’re getting a great experience this summer for their resumes, their college application, and for life.”
Since its launch in 2014, students who have participated in The Intern Project have earned a total of $360,000 in wages at employers such as Participant Media, 826LA, Amgen, Cedars Sinai, and the Los Angeles Rams. Ninety-five percent of participants are students of color, and 100 percent of participants go on to college.
For more information about The Intern Project and LA Promise Fund, visit www.lapromisefund.org.