Summer internships offer teens valuable nonprofit experience

For many previous generations, teens spent their summers working behind a fast food counter or other jobs typically occupied by teens getting their first job experience.

These days with the economy being down and teens spending more time preparing for post-high school careers, summer jobs can be hard to come by. Seeing that need and knowing many nonprofit organizations could use an extra hand, the Teens in Public Service (TIPS) program of Seattle works to place teens with nonprofits for an eight-week summer internship — and it’s a paying job.

The program, which is highly competitive, recently placed two Mercer Island students with nonprofits for the summer. Lauren Roth and Ahbra Franco were two of 50 chosen for internships out of 550 who applied. Roth will be working with the Renton Skyway Boys & Girls Club, and Franco is helping Cast For Kids, a nonprofit which takes children with special needs fishing.

Roth said she heard about the opportunity after a friend of her family’s thought she would be a good fit and encouraged her to apply.

“I’m really glad this opportunity came up,” she said. Roth will be working with sixth through eighth graders in a new health program at the club.

“I’ll be teaching them about being healthy, and how to handle stress. I’ll be helping to plan events and field trips, as well as working with the kids,” she said.

Franco said she also heard about the program from a family friend, who had participated in the past and thought it was something she should try. She said she has done a lot of work in the past with special needs children and is excited to learn as much as she can this summer.

“I’m really just excited because this is going to be a unique experience,” said Franco. “I’m going to be working in the administration office, so I’ll be learning about fundraising.”

TIPS raises money throughout the year to pay interns Washington’s minimum wage during their internships, and Executive Director Cathy Michalec said the number of interns they can provide for nonprofits is based solely on the amount of money that the program raises.

Michalec said each student earns about $3,100 for the summer and the organization raises whatever it can, and the number of internships it offers is based on the money available.

Nonprofits like the ones Roth and Franco will be working with apply, and are graded and then selected by a committee at TIPS. Interns submit applications and if chosen go through an interview process before being selected. Michalec said teens rank their top three choices of places to work and TIPS does its best to match teens with an organization based on those choices. The interns work for about 20 to 30 hours a week for eight weeks.

Michalec said they provide leadership training and the organization does a day of service with one of the nonprofits. At the end of summer all the teens, their families and the organizations where they work gather for a Celebration of Service, where each student gives a 90-second speech about what they learned.

Roth said she has done a lot of volunteering, and it is something that she enjoys. Getting an internship in some kind of health care field was her first choice, and she said her match is going to suit her interests very well.

“It’s very similar to what I wanted, and it’s really cool,” she said. “I think the part of the internship I’m most excited about is to be able to plan a program with kids and see how my efforts play out.”

For Franco, the future holds college and plans to continue volunteering.

“Charity work and volunteering is very important, I think,” said Franco. “I would like to get more involved.”

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