At Gateway, we’re big believers in the power of internships for high school students. By connecting young people with the wealth of opportunities and career pathways right here in the Bay Area, students can see themselves in careers they may not have been exposed to otherwise and discover passions that can alter the trajectory of their adult lives. These opportunities are no less important or urgent just because we’re stuck at home this year, so how do you adapt the internship experience for the virtual arena?
When it became clear that COVID-19 would impact internship programs not just through the end of the last school year but for 2020-21 as well, Gateway’s counseling and student opportunities staff jumped into action to contact internship and work site hosts and judge the feasibility of placements continuing either virtually or in a new, socially-distanced context. Happily, most partner sites were willing to offer virtual internships, and the 2020-2021 Gateway to the Workforce program emerged in the fall ready to help students access the fields of education, government, and business.
“We know that now more than ever, students need meaningful opportunities to engage with their communities,” said Jenna Marx, College Counselor and Student Opportunities Coordinator. “COVID-19 has impacted college admissions so that extracurriculars are playing a bigger role in the absence of required test scores. COVID-19 and distance learning has also made connecting with the community challenging for many students.”
This spring, at the request of students, Gateway is focusing on offering internships that provide access to civic engagement, specifically to address issues of racial and social justice. A few of the internships include:
- Nine students joining SF Supervisor Aaron Peskin’s office for an 8-week internship
- Two students joining SF Supervisor Catherine Stefani’s team for the spring semester
- Ten students participating in the San Francisco Zoo’s ten-week internship for African American students interested in animals and veterinary science
- Three students starting at Sequoia Living, a senior living center, to create and implement engaging virtual activities for senior citizens
“Sometimes seniors are overlooked or neglected, but one day that overlooked senior citizen could be you. Making sure that senior citizens get the respect and care they deserve should be a priority,” said Vivian, a GHS junior, about her hopes for interning with Sequoia Living. “As part of the Student Culture Committee, I plan events for teenagers, so planning events for senior citizens, especially now, will be a new challenge that I would be excited to undertake.”
Even with many partners willing to revise internship plans to accommodate virtual learning, for some sites this wasn’t feasible. In order to accommodate as many students as possible, Gateway developed a home-grown internship program at Gateway Middle School for high school students interested in pursuing education careers. The new internship provides students with real classroom experience: supporting synchronous virtual classroom learning, facilitating breakout rooms with middle school students, and providing 1:1 tutoring, homework help, and reading support during asynchronous time and after school hours. These roles are invaluable in supporting distance learning facilitation and planning, while also giving students greater responsibility within the school community. In the long term, it also helps address shortages in the field of teaching by inspiring the next generation of educators.
“I want to get an idea of how teachers create lessons and see how I, a current student, could look at these processes differently,” said Sarai, a junior pursuing the GMS education internship. “Maybe I can get inspired to create my own way of teaching for others who have a tough time learning in class.”
Interested in hosting GHS interns at your workplace? Contact Jenna Marx, College Counselor and Student Opportunities Coordinator.