By Aaron L. and Zesen L., former DC Programs Intern
Photos courtesy of AALEAD staff
For the past months in the Fall semester, Aaron & Zesen had been interning with our DC Programs team under the supervision of Charles Kuo, our DC Programs Manager. Aaron & Zesen are both currently attending School Without Walls High School in DC, and both have participated in AALEAD Programming previously when they were younger. As Aaron & Zesen wrapped up their internship, they also spent some time reflecting on their journey with AALEAD.
We thought long and hard when deciding where we wanted to intern at. We wanted our internship experience to be meaningful to us. We were youths who were once participants of AALEAD and never have we ever imagined of becoming a part of the AALEAD staff team as interns. However, the more we considered the idea, the more it made sense for us to intern here. We wanted to give back and learn more about the organization that made a big impact on us as youths. Throughout the past few months, starting from October to January, we have harnessed a collection of skills and experiences arranging from the ability to conduct interviews to leading youth through an enrichment workshop.
Everything was new and fresh, ready to be explored on the first day of the internship. Expectations and goals were building subconsciously as we meet our future colleagues and supervisor. It was nerve-wracking. We went over some of the goals we want to set for ourselves and milestones to check our progress with our lovely supervisor, Charles. We weren’t close and there were moments of awkward tension, but these tensions were soon dissolved as we continue to meet a few times a week. As we got to know Charles better, we soon realized that our internship is one of a kind, and here’s why: Although it is an internship, it might not feel as if it is sometimes. The whole program is full of staffs whose jobs are to interact with youths in a caring and encouraging way. Therefore, we don’t feel as alienated as we thought. Second, Charles was such a responsible supervisor who is always very diligent at preparing the necessary materials needed for that day. On top of that, his organization allowed us to do our jobs more efficiently. Overall, the relationships we’ve built during our stay was precious and will always remain the same after we leave.
A major component of our internship at AALEAD was learning different job skills through various tasks. We learned how to create advertisements to help promote activities and events sponsored by AALEAD. We also learned a great deal about communication in the work environment. This was an ongoing skill we developed as we interacted with the staff on a day to day basis. The simple gestures of greeting each other as we arrive and leave create a friendly workplace where everyone feels comfortable to collaborate and ask each other for help. It is nice to be in an environment where everyone is passionate about the goal and are willing to work together to make that goal realizable.
As part of our internship, we were tasked with conducting informational interviews. This consisted of learning about the interviewee through their resumes and creating questions that help us learn more about their profession and how they got to where they are. We were unsure of what to expect when conducting our first interview, but as we did more, we became more comfortable in the role of an interviewer. We learned how to ask the important questions for us to learn from and how to build off the responses to continue a conversation. The interviews lasted an average of one hour each and we learned so much from each of them. We received a lot of advice from the different experiences of the AALEAD staff and other professionals.
One of our interests was to work with the elementary school (ES) students to experience the other side of how lessons were made since we were once thought by AALEAD educators. Our meeting with the ES students was more glamorous than we thought it would be. The youths were so curious of new visitors and are always to as you questions or to play with you. After going a couple times, we’ve gotten to know then better and this allowed them to be comfortable with us. We then proceed in devising a lesson plan to teach the youths about the basics of engineering. We had no clue what to expect. Though, we did have concerns whether if the lesson and the activity will fully hook the attention of the youths, and wondering if this will be beneficial to them. The result blew our minds. The youths gave us their undivided attention and didn’t want the activity to be over. Our experience of working with the youth made us realize this: Anyone can teach a youth, but developing a relationship that promotes the child’s wellbeing and their eagerness to learn is essential to AALEAD’s impact. We have witnessed how quickly youths create bonds with people because their pure innocence allowed them to be open and friendly. This was surprising to us and we’re honored to serve the youths that exert endless curiosity. It is truly eye-opening.
We have experienced a lot of different things while working as an intern with AALEAD and we are glad that we chose to intern here. Our new found perspective of working on this side of the organization showed us the effort and commitment it takes to operate a non-profit organization. We were once youth who benefited the fruits of their labor and now we can also appreciate the efforts everyone at the AALEAD office puts in. Along with this new found appreciation, we were able to learn several job skills as well as the joys of working with youth. We are grateful that we had the opportunity to work with and learn about AALEAD through our internship.