As LA Unified students continue to adjust to another semester of virtual learning, CTE teachers are also figuring out how to adapt experiential learning to a remote setting. One of the key components of career technical education is work-based learning—including professional development, career exploration, and access to industry—which LA Promise Fund’s Career Pathway Connections team is happy to offer; our work with The Intern Project over the summer has prepared us to deliver exceptional virtual engagement opportunities, and our network of industry partners are eager to share their experiences with our South LA student community.
In August, we started the school year off with a Career Day co-hosted by Disney, and Fremont High School’s animation pathway was invited to a series of panel discussions where Disney VoluntEARS showcased their expertise across several departments, ranging from animation and lighting, to legal and technology operations. The students were thrilled to see how the software programs they were learning were routinely being used in Disney’s animation studio. It was also illuminating for them to see that many of the panelists came from similar backgrounds as themselves. “All the presenters got their chance to speak and all of them revealed how they came from communities just like ours,” shared one student at the end of the event. “It gave me a sense of comfort knowing that seemingly perfect people at the top of the ladder started from the very bottom.”
Using the success of the Disney Career Day as a model, Career Pathway Connections has expanded the series to all of the network schools in SLATE-Z. We have partnered each pathway to an industry leader in their field of study, and we will continue to cultivate these connections with other events, such as resume review days and mock interview days, throughout the school year.
Our upcoming Career Day schedule is listed below, and many of the presentations will be available to view on our website after the event:
Dr. Maya Angelou Community High School, Engineering pathway and Buro Happold: Oct. 21
Santee Education Complex, Entrepreneurship and Coding and Ayzenburg Group: Oct. 23
Manual Arts High School, SMART SLC and Community Health Partners: Oct. 28
Manual Arts High School, SMART SLC, Biotechnology pathway and Cedars-Sinai Accelerator: Nov. 5
Summer always flies by, but TIP’s momentum seemed especially unstoppable this year! All internships were under way by week 6 and the second half of the TIP program shifted its focus on career readiness events, including a second Career Day, a Virtual Mock Interview Day, and a cover letter workshop hosted by Disney VoluntEARS. These opportunities to engage with professionals from some of the largest, most recognizable companies are paramount to the TIP experience, and it is our primary goal to empower our students and create new channels for networking and relationship-building. We were fortunate to have a wealth of professional partners excited to meet our students and ready to lend their expertise. And now with some work experience under their belts, our interns are more than ready to move seamlessly from the job search all the way to their first day in the office.
During Career Day, over 50 TIPsters convened to learn about the ever-widening range of possibilities within industries such as entertainment (Nickelodeon), healthcare (Cedars-Sinai), wellness (HeadSpace), education (Edlio and Everydae), and nonprofit organization (Habitat for Humanity)—many of which were new to our students. Exploring what work can look like, especially in this current virtual space, proved to be hugely beneficial. “I really enjoyed being able to network with professionals in a variety of industries. It was really cool to meet them all and understand what they do on a daily basis and how they got there,” said Rahma, a senior. Another student agreed. “It was great to see that there are different careers besides the very objectified one I had in my mind,” said Toni, also a senior.
The following week, students got a chance to put their interviewing skills to the test with our first-ever Virtual Mock Interview Day. In addition to welcoming back Nickelodeon and Cedars Sinai, professionals from e-commerce (Amazon Web Services), engineering (Buro Happold), public relations (42West), social impact (Dave Banking, Revolve Impact, The Library Corporation, and Jogg), and entertainment (Sony Animation, Illumination, Vydia, and Participant Media) met one-on-one with over 40 students, providing feedback and advice about how to best represent themselves during an interview. “The mock interview was definitely a worth-while experience,” said Daniella, an 11th grader. “My favorite part of the LA Promise Fund internship was being able to network with professionals from various careers and backgrounds. Even though the program was not in-person, I still feel like my knowledge on professional development has definitely been enriched.”
The final week of TIP was capped off with a cover letter and resume workshop hosted by Disney. Students met with VoluntEARS in small groups, where they learned from professionals as well as each other about how to build an effective narrative for their job experience. For many TIPsters, it was the first time they’d had a professional review of their work outside of an academic setting—and here, there are no grades, only positive reinforcement and advice for areas of growth. “During the Disney resume review, I took notes on things that should be changed about my resume and plan on changing really soon. My willingness to learn spiked as well because I became more curious and comfortable and began to ask questions,” said Toni.
And many students shared their appreciation for the safe and open space TIP provided them during their professional development. “Everyone was really welcoming and it was an amazing environment,” said Antonio, a junior. Tinbite, a senior, also remarked about his personal growth over the 8 weeks. “My ability to communicate and network has greatly increased thanks to this program. Due to training and constantly pushing myself, I managed to communicate with the guest who worked with Nickelodeon afterwards and generate a strong bond which will definitely prove useful in the future.” As summer’s end quickly approaches, our TIPsters will walk into another school year prepared not only for academic success but career readiness as well.
When Martin Bros., a Los Angeles-based construction and engineering firm, decided to partner with TIP and take on 10 interns for the summer, no one anticipated COVID-19 would make meeting in-person all but impossible. But Heather Powen, Director of Marketing and Community Relations, rose to the challenge and created a virtual learning experience by providing the interns with industry-standard digital rendering and 3D modeling software and assigning them real world architecture, engineering, and construction projects.
Toni, a 11th grader, was a bit skeptical about what her work experience would be, but the internship far exceeded her expectations. “This being my first internship… when I realized it was going to be virtual, I thought Martin Bros. was going to give us an Excel sheet and some data to put in and that was it. But they brought a lot to us—a lot of knowledge, a lot of engagement, and they were really there for us. They genuinely wanted us to succeed.”
Another intern, Nelson, who will be attending engineering school at UC Berkeley in the fall, saw Martin Bros. as a perfect pre-college learning experience for him. Because the internship was so short, Nelson found himself immersed in his work almost immediately, and his swift adaptability paid off. “After downloading SketchUp Pro, I was thinking we’d have a week of pure training before they assigned us a project, but now when I look back, I’m grateful that they just gave us a project and said, ‘Figure it out.’ There was a learning curve, obviously, but not as much as I thought there’d be.”
One look at all the final presentations from the TIP 2020 cohort confirmed a remarkable amount of success over a very short period of time. In just four weeks, the interns produced several 3D models of structures they designed for ways to make inhabited spaces more usable and beautiful. Toni designed a rechargeable electric scooter station powered by a uniquely curved solar panel roof, which provided sustainable energy while also enhancing the structure’s curb appeal. She also imagined how a UCLA dorm room could utilize rainscreen walls by embedding them directly into the structure, thus preventing erosion and making the building more sustainable over time.
Nelson spent a lot of his time focusing on all the little details of the spaces he created, using the software to eke out the correct dimensions and proportions of each room he designed. He found himself having to think like a real engineer, which was one of his primary goals for the internship and something that his supervisor encouraged all the interns to think about from the beginning. “It was extremely helpful for me to come into a new internship already knowing what I wanted to attain by the end of it. I took a computer course that did 3D modeling [in high school], and it would’ve taken weeks for them to get to this point! Having everything move at a faster pace allowed me to unlock a part of me that I didn’t know I had: I could learn something very quickly if I put my mind and effort into it. It’s a lesson I don’t think I’ll ever forget.”
But Toni’s biggest takeaway was understanding how vast and diverse the engineering field can be. Even though Toni also has an interest in engineering and is studying STEM subjects in high school, Toni was pleasantly surprised by the range of opportunities Martin Bros. provides as a company. “[Before my internship] I didn’t even know Building Information Modelling (BIM) existed, and now I’m glad I do know because I will consider that career for myself in the future.” In the meantime, Toni recently interviewed for a new in-person job to carry her through the rest of the summer. “Luckily, I talked about my experience with Martin Bros. in the interview and gave them an updated resume. I just started working yesterday!”
What do tacos, soap, and fly swatters have in common? TIP interns will soon find out as they repurpose their homes into makeshift laboratories for LATTC’s Applied Sciences department this summer.
When Dr. Artemio Navarro and Dr. Martin Diaz initially decided to take on interns, they started with two inquiry questions: What are the best practices to engage and retain community college students studying STEM, with an emphasis on students of color, and how could they use TIP interns to investigate this for them? But once COVID-19 hit, they knew they would also have to ask another more practical question: Where would students conduct their experiments?
They came up with “The Science of …” series, a project that asks LATTC students to investigate the science behind household items and commonly used products and tools. “The idea emanated from Dr. Velveth Klee (another scientist in the Applied Sciences department), who has done so much work on inspiring future generations of STEM students, and we wanted to see how we could build on her idea,” Dr. Navarro said. Because they weren’t sure what their students might find interesting, they decided to turn the reins over to their TIP interns to research topics, provide learning tools, and advise the instructors on ways to make the material palatable to their incoming college students. This opportunity will not only allow our interns to help build college-level curriculum that will be implemented by the department in the fall, but it also expands their knowledge in engineering, chemistry, biotechnology, and physics.
It sounds a little daunting for a group of high schoolers, right? But here’s where the project gets innovative, and fun! Because of ongoing COVID-19 precautions, the student’s lab will be their home and the materials they’ll be experimenting with include tacos, soap, laundry detergent, fly swatters, and mirrors. The aim is to meet students (literally) where they are and to allow for an individual, self-guided learning experience. How does that also help our interns? It gives them some insight into what it’s like to be a scientist—how they use their own natural curiosity to create an inquiry question and follow that lead to its conclusion. “Because we are not only their employers for the summer, but also coming from an education perspective, we wanted to create an experience that translates directly into the world our students are living in and give them the tools they can use to find the answers they’re looking for, “ said Dr. Navarro.
How might this summer change our interns’ perceptions about the world they live in? How many of them might shift their own focus to science once they return to school in the fall? What bonds might they form with their supervisors that could lead to a career in applied science? “We are hoping to not only broaden these interns’ experiences with science but also introduce them to our department and let them know that LATTC is here as a resource for them,” said Dr. Diaz. This sentiment mirrors one of the key objectives of the Career Pathway Connections grant, awarded to LA Promise Fund in 2019 as part of an initiative to connect more South Los Angeles students to college and career opportunities with LATTC. “We hope that with this internship, alongside dual enrollment credit for all our TIP interns, this summer will deepen LAPF’s partnership with LATTC and encourage more of students to take advantage of what LATTC has to offer,” said Leslie Aaronson, Director of Career Pathway Connections at LA Promise Fund.
“I’m all about social justice, I’m all about impact, I’m all about creating spaces for communities of color, people who are unrepresented in tech, women, women of color, just really trying to be that person that keeps that door open behind me and creates new pathways for folks.” – Lauryn Nwankpa, TIP Business of You panelist and Head of Social Impact at Dave: Banking For Humans
Last week, we started another summer with The Intern Project. And while this year will be markedly different than those of the past, one thing remains consistent: Our students will be preparing to take on real world challenges in an ever-changing global landscape. In 2020, perhaps the word “challenge” is an understatement. With the introduction of COVID-19, there has been a complete and utter dismantling of the ways in which we have worked, learned, and lived as a society; literally nothing is the same as it was, and it may never be again. Adding to the pandemic is our current public conversation about racial injustice and inequity, issues that have been central to the work of LA Promise Fund since its inception. Those of us on the TIP Team asked: How can we expand this conversation through our work with young people looking to navigate these issues in the professional world? How can we prepare them to be successful in spaces that are not necessarily designed for their inclusion and advancement? And how are we addressing these concerns with our professional partners?
We decided to incorporate our inquiry into TIP Orientation Week by inviting a diverse group of professionals from our community to speak to our students about the importance of being themselves in a way that reconfigures rather than reaffirms the status quo. Our Business of You panel, led exclusively by people of color, shared their personal experiences in the workforce and proved to our students that not only is inclusion possible, this is happening every day—and our panelists are the living proof of that success. Our students can now embark on the first steps of their professional journeys with a vision of hope, trust, and acceptance because they have role models whom they can access for advice and support through the TIP community.
While the work of dismantling inequality is its own ongoing praxis, we are also faced with operative challenges as we continue to adjust to a post-COVID way of life. But as educators, we are also lifelong learners, and this year, the TIP Team will be taking on the task of growing our skillset alongside our student interns. The Intern Project will be 100% virtual for the first time. Students will report to work remotely and participate in online learning through our partnership with LA Trade Tech, receiving college credit for their work experience. Our Career Days and other programming will be shared online as well, allowing us for the first time to engage with students who weren’t able to be placed in an internship this year. This new virtual setting creates more opportunities to invest in our community, and we can’t wait to share what we’re discovering with you. If we’ve learned anything about this year, it’s that 2020 is full of surprises. And we’ll be adapting as we go, in real time, utilizing the voices of our students, partners, and educators to narrate their experiences. Please continue to follow our story here.
How did your friendship amplify or complement the benefits of your internship?
Although our internship itself was very exciting, becoming friends with each other helped make the experience even more fun. Whenever we left we’d take the bus together which made the ride much more enjoyable and less lonely. And now that internships are over, we make a point to stay in contact through our social media such as Instagram.
What do you think makes your friendship special and unique?
Our friendship is special and unique because we have similar moral values and ideas that we think is not easy to find within young people these days. Though we come from different backgrounds, we were surprised by how similarly we think. We’re both goofy and try to see the best of every situation. So when we hang out together we’re able to be very happy and positive because we feed off of each other’s energy.
Be friendly! Put yourself out there and make it known that you’re interested in keeping in touch. Exchange numbers or even just social media accounts, it’ll go a long way. And don’t be afraid to send that first message.
What would be your advice for future TIP interns on how to build and maintain friendships?
Mary: Always stay open to potential opportunities and be comfortable with yourself and the people around you. If you put an uncomfortable, stiff barrier around yourself, no one wants to risk getting rejected by you when they may want to be friends.
Ray: Be friendly! Put yourself out there and make it known that you’re interested in keeping in touch. Exchange numbers or even just social media accounts, it’ll go a long way. And don’t be afraid to send that first message.
What's next for you after high school? Has TIP made any influence on your future plans?
Mary: After high school and college, I wish to live in either New York, Seattle, or California (where I am right now) and become an art/creative director in a great fun company. The internship through TIP made me realize that I really have passion for the media/entertainment and my hobbies will most likely consist of creating YouTube videos, photography, and traveling with the people I love!
Ray: I will be attending college and most likely pursue a major in Psychology. TIP has definitely influenced my future plans. My internship at Fullscreen solidified my dream of being a part of the entertainment industry. So in college I will continue to pursue that dream through internships and various other opportunities.