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How Paid Internships Changed Everything For Me

By Audrey Herrera | Nov 18 2020

In 2010, San Antonians said they wanted a highly qualified and educated workforce and provides economic opportunity for all of its residents. We know that to achieve this it requires a community-wide focus on education, professional certificates, and opportunities like internships or apprenticeships. As San Antonio grows and recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important that we continue to cultivate our homegrown workforce and provide opportunities for all residents. It was as important in 2010 as it is now.

Paid internships changed everything for me. This semester in my child development class at Trinity University, I learned about how exploration is important for adolescent development in order to achieve a secure identity. Internships are an excellent way for young people to explore future vocational paths and learn more about themselves outside of the school’s walls. But internships are not just positive because child developmentalists said so—they are beneficial because they open up unimaginable opportunities for young people, including me.

I got my first internship at a nonprofit when I was a junior in high school. I absolutely loved the work I was doing, but it was unpaid. As the months went by, it was increasingly difficult justifying the work that I enjoyed doing with the reality that I needed to start making money to attend college. I started looking for “traditional” jobs, when someone recommended to me the SA Works Summer Internship program. I immediately got to work on my application and learned all the necessary components of a “fancy” internship, like resumes, cover letters, and a good interview.

That summer, I ended up working for San Antonio City Council… and getting paid for it! My brain could not fathom that I was worthy of getting paid for something like that; that I did not have to work for free, that my time, energy and insight was valuable to someone else. Beyond the lesson in worthiness, I also got real hands-on, behind the scenes experience of City Council. I learned what it is to work in a real office environment and how to work with a team beyond just my high school peers. I got insight into what it would be like to work in the Public and Governmental sector. I enjoyed my time working there, and it provided me with experience that most 16-year-olds do not have. It also taught me that I do not think that field is for me, which is so important! I can only imagine if I would have gone to college, got a degree in something I thought I might want to do, only to find out that it is not what I want to do for the rest of my life.

Thankfully, my experience launched me into the opportunity of a paid internship with SA2020 the following summer. While in a different sector and doing different work, I had the knowledge and skills of working in an office, as well as how to even apply for the job, and had even learned more about SA2020’s work through that initial summer internship. My internship at SA2020 has now led me to being the Community Impact Assistant, a paid part-time role, that I am immensely grateful for. In between classes and studying, I work with the SA2020 Team to create content, analyze and organize data, and even lead presentations. As a college student, there is no way I could get through school without a job, so I feel very fortunate to have a job in a field I want to work in in the future.

COVID-19 has put a halt to many paid internship opportunities for young people, so as we make plans on recovery, we cannot lose sight of how important paid internship opportunities—in tangent with higher education access, apprenticeships, and professional certificates— will be for young people and our future workforce.

Audrey Herrera

A self-defined maker and glass ceiling breaker, Audrey “burns for” youth advocacy, educational equity, storytelling, and her support system-- compromised of pets, family, friends and mentors. She was born and raised in San Antonio, graduated from the International School of the Americas, and is now attending Trinity University. From serving as Chair of the San Antonio Youth Commission to running a Zine Club at her high school, Audrey tries to put paying it forward at the core of her work. At SA2020, Audrey serves as the Community Impact Assistant.

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