PBS SoCaL continues our work around our American Graduate efforts by helping youth find themselves with a diploma and the skills they need to be successful, contributing adults. Although a post-secondary credential is considered necessary for today’s workforce, many youth do not earn a high school diploma. And for those who move on to college, many find themselves lacking the skills necessary to succeed in college-level coursework or workforce training. According to a study by Junior Achievement, spending time at a work site can even help change students’ attitudes about school and about their future.
That is why PBS SoCaL, as part of our American Graduate efforts, has partnered with Girls Inc. of Orange County, a nonprofit organization that seeks to inspire girls to be strong, smart, and bold. We aimed to support, mentor and encourage a young woman this summer as she navigates the workforce for the first time. We strongly and deeply believe that students will benefit greatly from access to hands-on career-readiness to grow and develop as leaders, not only in the classroom, but also in the workplace.
This year, PBS SoCaL hosted Stephanie Chairez, 17, a rising senior at Estancia High School, where 85% of students are Hispanic or Latino, and 55% of students are English learners. We were excited to work with a young woman from a high-need community to encourage her and nurture her abilities to succeed in high school. We worked with Stephanie to meet the following objectives this summer:
1. Career exploration opportunities: Stephanie was placed at our station based on her interests. Although she had never stepped foot in a studio, she found the idea of a public media station and nonprofit organization interesting. She was ready and eager to learn the ins and outs about our station’s operations. For five weeks, Stephanie “came to work” three times a week for a half-day. PBS SoCaL provided a supportive, educational and safe work environment for Stephanie to effectively observe different roles within the station, with her favorite functions being education and community outreach. Her typical day included the following:
- Practice-based learning, hands-on experiences within our organization through daily tasks and/or on-going projects. Stephanie learned first-hand event planning from Odd Squad summer camp preparations to Kart Kingdom outreach with the Boys and Girls Club of Tustin.
- Interviewing staff to better understand the variety of jobs and tasks within the organization. Stephanie’s favorite part of her externship was shadowing other employees. She sat down with our Membership Operations Manager and learned about what membership means for public media. Stephanie acquired insights into public media fundraising, pledge drives and types of sustainable memberships. Though she appreciated its importance, this element of public media was not Stephanie’s favorite. By contrast, Stephanie also shadowed our motion graphic designer and assistant producer Adam Hernandez, and really enjoyed that experience. Stephanie was surprised to learn that Adam took the alternative route and decided to attend art school for two years instead of the traditional four-year college. Also, Stephanie felt that she could also work at PBS because she saw herself in Adam, who is also Latino. This was probably the best part of Stephanie’s experience. For a couple of hours, Adam served as a mentor to Stephanie, without him knowing the impact he had on her.
2. Mentorship: One of the most effective ways to enhance retention efforts is to engage students through mentorship. Students who never had an adult mentor are less likely to graduate high school, attend college, and lead productive lives. As host and mentor, PBS SoCaL provided Stephanie with hands-on experiences that related to the goals and expectations of her externship. Stephanie also developed working and meaningful relationships with several staff, such as the one with Adam. We hope that such mentor relationships are the catalyst for Stephanie to find motivation to stay in school and continue to see us as role models.
Through this partnership, PBS SoCaL hopes to be a change-maker in the lives of youth by providing career exposure and role models. Krystel Miranda, the Externship Coordinator at Girls Inc. of Orange County expressed her experience with our partnership:
“Partnering with [PBS SoCaL] is so important because it is mutually beneficial for everyone involved. Not only is it an opportunity for the girls to gain first-hand experience in an industry they're interested in, it's also an opportunity for our partners to positively influence the future leaders of those industries. Many of our girls complete the externship program energized and passionate about their future careers and that is thanks to the professionals who mentored them like PBS SoCaL.”
A note from Stephanie:
My name is Stephanie Chairez, I am 17 years old, and I have had the privilege to be a Girls Inc. extern at PBS SoCal. An extern is just like an intern that’s still in high school. My five short weeks have been an incredible experience. Through this experience, I was lucky to work with the marvelous Education team. I had the chance to get out of my comfort zone and work with amazing people that made me feel like one of them. I also had the privilege to meet and talk to Adam Hernandez, the motion graphic designer and assistant producer, who talked to me about his career and his journey on becoming who he is today.
My experience at PBS SoCal, has given me first-hand experience on what it is like to work in an office environment. I was given projects that ranged from simple office tasks (such as organizing and taking inventory), to helping out with exciting events! My favorite experience from my time here, was getting the chance to work with kids and helping them expand their knowledge through the Ready To Learn workshops at Project Access’ Summer Academy. I will be taking a lot from this externship and I cannot thank everyone enough with helping me throughout this incredible experience! Thank you PBS SoCal and Girls Inc. and a special thanks to Jamie Annunzio Myers, Susie Grimm, Leticia Ramos, Alison Dorff, Christine Zirneklis, and Keena Levert!