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The Warrior: High School Internships: Leading the way for Successful Futures
By Daniela Ciesielski, January 7, 2019
The bell rings, signaling the end of fourth period. Abram Kidane shifts his mentality from “high school student” to “high school intern,” and prepares to dive into the second half of his day, where he will be working in the world of corporate America.
Urban Alliance is a national nonprofit organization that works with professional job partners to provide high school students the opportunity to work in paid internships.
High school internships through Urban Alliance offer students like Kidane, Div. 951, access to intensive job skill training, post-high school planning assistance, and mentoring, according to Anna Treesara, a Program Coordinator at Urban Alliance.
Kidane interns at Aria Group Architects and commutes to his internship after 4th period. He works from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., which allows him a unique schedule compared to the traditional day of an everyday high school student.
“Students are pre-approved for a shortened or early-release schedule before they sign up for Urban Alliance,” Treesara said in an email. “In Chicago, students receive course credit for completing Urban Alliance, and their schedules are arranged so that they do not miss any essential classes while working.”
Before starting the actual internship, students must complete “Pre-Work”, a six week period where students are taught basic skills needed for a job.
After students successfully complete the training, they work with Urban Alliance staff to find an internship that best fits them.
Nia Muhammad, Div. 953, interns at Northern Trust and said the job training and the interviewing process are a way for students to advocate for themselves and let program coordinators and bosses get to know the aspiring intern.
“During your interview, you answer basic questions like what are your future career plans, have you ever been in a situation where you haven’t gotten along with somebody and how did you approach it — questions for a regular job, but you have the opportunity to tell them more, and that’s the best way to get placed at the job that you want,” Muhammad said.
Students are able to rely on both an on-the-job mentor as well as an Urban Alliance Program Coordinator to guide them through the process.
“My involvement as a Program Coordinator includes having one-on-one meetings with students, leading Friday workshops for additional job and life skills training and conducting workplace visits with students and mentors to check in on them and solve any issues,” Treesara said.
In addition to being exposed to the basic job training needed for a corporate job, being able to work in an environment so different than the usual one of a high school classroom helps students develop the skills to adjust to new environments, practice professional communications and learn the management and drive needed to work in a job, according to Muhammad.
“Being placed in something where every day I get something new means I have to adjust really quickly,” Muhammad said. “You have to be quick on your feet and automatically be like — OK, got it. I think that’s something that I’m learning that’s going to be helpful.”
Kidane categorizes skills into two groups, as either hard skills or soft skills.
“Hard skills, such as [working with] specific software, really help you form a well-rounded resume,” Kidane said. “Soft skills, such as teamwork and communication, make the transition easier to your first job out of high school or college.”
Kidane also thinks high school internships are a significant factor in deciding and impacting a students future.
“Internships prior to college can help a student determine what they would like to major in, providing alternatives or even a completely new major students may not even have considered,” Kidane said. “Also, they give a higher chance in actually getting an internship [in college] because of the pure experience you have received.”
A college internship may be slightly different than a high school internship due to its focus on a specific task in certain fields, while high school internships are centered around the idea of exposing students to the workforce, Treesara said.
Nevertheless, early access to the workforce is what helps develop the skills needed for the future.
“An internship is more than just a job. It’s access to the professional world – for many students, for the first time,” Treesara said. “Students have to learn how to talk to people from different backgrounds and how to leave high school on a pathway that makes sense for them.”