“We’ve done the research about the benefits of mentorships for young people,” explained David Nuñez, Coordinator of Expanded Learning and Student Internships. “It’s something we thought was needed, and we wanted to provide students with more opportunities to grow and learn.” The power of Green Dot's network is about leveraging our scale into unique opportunities for high schoolers.
Throughout the summer at the Green Dot Public Schools home office, there were a half-dozen new faces working at desks, attending meetings, and walking the hallways. They belonged to the students in Green Dot’s first-ever internship program.
Looking toward next summer, Nuñez hopes the program can expand both with more students and with other corporate partners that can take in a few students a piece. “They liked it because it challenges ideas they had,” Nuñez said.
“They really light up when they’re being challenged. The students are very hungry for an opportunity to learn – they want to get better, they want to discover themselves and what they are about and what they can accomplish.”
Year one was intended as a pilot effort, Nuñez added, to see how spending time in a business setting would benefit the students. For the six students, that meant a crash course of sorts into the office environment – one that turned out to bust expectations.
Learning the ropes
“When I first started, I thought it was going to be very serious and focused on work,” said Laura Elizarras, now a junior at Ánimo Ralph Bunche Charter High School. “But people are interactive, they talk, they are comfortable with each other.” Collaboration, team work, and organizational culture are key things that students can learn at internships that better equip them to succeed in college, leadership, and life.
Francisco Plascencia, a junior at Oscar de la Hoya Ánimo Charter High, said he was equally surprised by the work environment. “I thought an office setting would be strict. You think nobody talks, everybody’s doing their own thing. But the more interactive, the more productive they are. When people don’t know something, they ask their co-workers.”
Yesica Rosales, a junior at Ánimo Jackie Robinson Charter High, saw similarities to an environment she’s more familiar with: the classroom. “I’m in the education department and people are constantly talking to each other.”
The real-world experiences the students received during the six week internship had some obvious applications back in school, Francisco said. “Mostly people at school will work by themselves,” he said.
“If everybody were to interact with each other, I think they would be more productive and efficient.”
Preparing for leadership and life
The students all pointed to one indispensable tool of the corporate world they learned more about: Microsoft Office programs, including Excel and Powerpoint. Even ensuring students are prepared to work on the basics helps them envision successful options for post college and beyond.
The care the Green Dot staffers took with their emails and other communications stood out to Erick Javier, now a junior at Oscar De La Hoya.
“I’ve become more aware of my writing– things that won’t be clear to the reader and small grammar mistakes,” he said, adding that he’d be applying those lessons as he applied to college.
After the first week that included whole group sessions to provide some basic training for the interns, lay out expectations, and introduce them to different Green Dot departments, the rest of the internship settled into a four-day week working in a specific department and then Friday workshops.
The internship also provided the students with chances to get to know themselves better, said Montserrat Benazides, now a junior at Ánimo Jackie Robinson, including with a career prep questionnaire they all took early on to help in determine what career might be best for them.