Special to The Michigan Catholic
METRO DETROIT — For many teenagers, summer means warm weather, barbecues and a sense of freedom and relaxation. No more late-night study sessions, midnight-hour cramming or RedBull. At least not for three months.
Other teens see it as an opportunity to apply skills learned throughout the school year in a professional environment. Whether summer plans include an internship or an academic program, it’s the perfect chance to differentiate oneself from the crowd, gain experience and build a résumé. It’s never too late to chase opportunities and make the summer memorable.
Why is it important?
In Metro Detroit, students at Detroit Cristo Rey High School are already learning the value of hard work. The school offers a unique, corporate work-study program for all students at least 14 years old. Students work once a week with companies such as DTE Energy, General Motors, Fifth Third Bank, the Detroit Zoo and others. The program lasts the entire school year.
Luis Gutierrez, 16, who works at General Motors in the company’s tech centers, is one of hundreds of students benefitting from the program. Gutierrez recognizes the value in the program, noting he feels more prepared for the professional world.
“We’re one step ahead,” said Gutierrez, “It’s just easier for us in general to make connections.”
Two of the most important skills he’s sharpened are communication and teamwork.
“There’s definitely a different way than you’re supposed to talk than in school,” he said. “Another thing that I’ve learned personally is how to work with others, because I’m more of a keep-to-myself person. But with the work-study program, I’ve learned to open up and voice my opinions to the team that I work for.”
Bianca Salas, another Cristo Rey student who works at General Motors, said she’s gained an abundance of knowledge this year, especially working with Microsoft software programs including Excel and PowerPoint. Salas said the work-study program helps students mature, and learn to be more respectful of one another.
“We just watched how professional everyone was, and we wanted to be like that. It rubbed off on us,” Salas said. “It’s really cool. I get to work with adults as if I am working there.”
Like Gutierrez and Salas, many teenagers will be applying to college, a job or both in the near future. It’s no secret that colleges seek initiative in students. What better way to show one has that initiative and determination than by actually doing something with the summer? Summer is a great time to network, explore future careers and most importantly, develop a work ethic.
It’s never too early to begin networking. Networking is more than meeting people in the professional world. It’s about establishing strong relationships and keeping in contact. Even if a student doesn’t know exactly what career they want to pursue, there’s no harm in exploring.
There is still time to plan a productive summer, build that resume and gain invaluable experience. A few opportunities exist within the local community.
St. John Providence has an extensive volunteer program within its hospitals and health centers. Volunteers come from all over Metro Detroit and range in age. For younger students, it’s a chance to gain insight about professional life, especially if medicine is a career interest. June and July are already filled, but August opportunities are still available. Summer volunteers typically give 30 hours of service.
Volunteer services leader Erin O’Mara said students’ responsibilities range from computer entry to transporting patients to food delivery. O’Mara believes that although volunteers might not be learning how to give shots or take blood pressure tests, there is great value in the program.
“I want them to be able to engage with people, make them feel more comfortable, make them feel informed,” O’Mara said. “We can expose you to a very active, community hospital setting. You’re actually working side by side with our staff … getting an idea of the flow of health care.”
Volunteers also learn to be proactive, she said, as every day in the hospital is different.
“Every hour is different, particularly in certain areas like the emergency department,” O’Mara said. “One day you may have a waiting room full of children that are with their parents and the next day not.”
Requirements include filling out the application, obtaining a tuberculosis test, and a personal and counselor letter of recommendation.
The application can be found online on the St. John Providence website.
Students interested in becoming a physician can also reach out to their family doctor and inquire about shadowing for a few days to gain a deeper understanding of the career. Those interested in journalism can reach out to a favorite reporter and ask about tagging along for a day or two.
Job shadowing is one of the most efficient ways to discover what a student truly loves. Most people will be more than willing to host a shadow; it is never too late to send an email or make a phone call. Even a traditional a letter can be effective. Above anything, being professional and respectful is important; after all, they are giving their time to ensure the experience is worthwhile.
Ashleigh Garrison is a recent graduate of International Academy in Troy and has written for the Detroit Free Press and other publications.