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A Reflection on the Community Internship Program

Please enjoy this submission from one of the 29 high school students who participated in The Jewish Federation’s inaugural Community Internship Program* from June 17th – July 9th.

“But You’re So Young!”

I definitely raised some eyebrows as I made my way around the Ann Taylor store in my local mall, admiring the business attire and picking out pieces to try on. Cute dress pants here, a blazer there. I knew exactly what the store employees were thinking: “What on earth is a clearly teenage girl doing in this adult store?” I eventually picked out a pencil skirt and two blouses. As I was paying, the young woman at the desk asked me what the occasion was for my shopping spree. The conversation went as follows:

Me: “I’m interning this summer and need professional-looking clothes.”
Cashier: “How great! What college is this for?”
Me: “I’m not in college… I’m going to be a senior in high school.”
Cashier: “Interning? In high school? But you’re so young! I never would have done an internship in high school.

I pondered what the clerk had just told me. I hadn’t really thought about how special the Teen Community Internship was. I realized how lucky I was to be one of only a few students selected for this internship opportunity. I was also lucky that within the first few minutes of my interview, coordinators Laura and Shari knew just where to place me: in an Editorial Intern position at the Jewish Journal.

Before I even stepped into the office, there was work to be done — three days of preparatory training, seminars, and lectures were just what I needed in order to be successful in the workplace. As a group, all of the interns met together at the Jewish Federation building to work with specialists and Human Resources to learn about proper behavior and skills that will help us in our internships. A favorite workshop of mine was all about Personal Branding. I learned how important it is to present yourself to your boss and coworkers in a professional way. Sitting up straight and wearing a put-together outfit makes all the difference. Becoming fast friends, I worked well with the other interns on the training days. I meshed with so many other students who were in this program for the same reason I was: to gain experience as a part of the workforce.

The training days allowed me to walk in to the Jewish Journal offices on the next Monday morning with confidence. My supervisors, Ryan and Susan, both welcomed me and the other Jewish Journal interns into the office with open arms and with tasks already planned out. My assignment was to go through two sections of the Jewish Los Angeles City Guide and call all of the businesses and organizations listed to make sure that they were still in existence and, if they were, to make sure that their contact information was up to date. I got over my fear of answering the phone! But I knew that I didn’t just want to handle the phones for the duration of the program. I asked for more substantial responsibilities and was able to see what deadline day looks like for a real publication. The art department allowed me to observe as they put together the pages on InDesign, a process that I know too well from working on my school yearbook. I was also able to sit in on the weekly writers’ meetings that happen in the conference room. All of the writers and editors gather together and share what is going on with stories that they are working on or researching. I even got to pitch my own ideas! Toward the end of the internship, I tackled a writing assignment about a current event happening in the Jewish community.

I developed a skill set that few teens my age possess. I experienced what it is like to be paid, take lunch breaks, and deal with clientele and coworkers. I now imagine future me wearing the pencil skirt I bought, sitting at a desk and typing with a steaming mug of coffee beside me, living the life of a journalist.

I smile at the thought.

*The Community Internship Program is part of the Los Angeles Jewish Teen Initiative, which is co-funded by Jewish Federation Los Angeles and The Jim Joseph Foundation. This summer’s inaugural internship program ran from June 17th – July 9th and provided 29 teens with paid internships at 16 different Jewish non-profit organizations in Los Angeles. The teens had the opportunity to contribute to organizations that support and impact our community, learn directly from leaders in our community, and participate in skill-building workshops.

Participating organizations included:

American Jewish University

Bet Tzedek Legal Services
Builders of Jewish Education
Jewish Big Brothers Big Sisters
Jewish Family Service
Jewish Vocational Service
Jewish World Watch
Los Angeles Jewish Home
MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger
National Council for Jewish Women

Skirball Cultural Center
The Jewish Federation
The Jewish Journal

Special thanks to Dahlia and Art Bilger, initiators and funders of the Community Internship Program.


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