Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Starting Out Young

The Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP) provides DC youth ages 14-21 with summer work experience in both private and government sectors across the District. The paid, short term employment introduces youth to various local job opportunities. To end our youth blogger series, 17 year old Jocelyn Funes talks about her experience working as the Communications and Development intern at the non-profit CentroNía.

At home, I'm the chef's assistant (my mother cooks a fresh meal almost everyday). I'm also the landscaper's helper (my dad's work in the yard never seems to end), and I'm even a nurse for my three siblings when they get sick. I would say that my duties at home extend to that of a janitor, teacher, translator and many other fields, but for the first time ever, my job title became Communications and Development Intern at CentroNía. Even more incredible: I got paid for it!

This summer while I was not at Capital City PublicCharter School, my days at CentroNía began at 10 a.m. every Monday through Thursday. I would walk through the tall and heavy glass door, where a staff member would always be there ready to welcome you to the building with a big smile. I later learned that I wasn't the only special person to be personally greeted; all staff members rotate at the door on a daily basis before and after school. Next, I would take 50 steps up the stairs until I reached the third floor. I was encouraged not to use the elevator and eat healthy for the sake of following CentroNía's wellness model, as they take pride in being a national example. I must admit though, it was tempting to eat chips or fries, but after time you simply don't do it because others around you don't.

Once in the Communications and Development office, I received projects from my bosses. At times I was asked to file, organize, translate from English to Spanish, input data in the computer, plan, write and many other things. I especially loved the moment I was asked to serve as photographer for an event where students were creating art projects with recycled materials. I was there to capture those special moments and we used the photos for bigger communication and development purposes. Another assignment I enjoyed was using social media to help communicate messages with the community. And on other occasions, I was asked to record audio messages for parent communication in English and Spanish. In many ways, I was a natural assistant since this had been in my DNA since I was a child at home, so now at 17 years-old and in a real job setting, it was no different for me.  I had responsibilities and I knew they just had to get done.

What I mostly got out of this paid internship was the feeling that I could be hired - one day.  I saw my possibilities as limitless.whether I want to be a teacher, nurse, principal, or anything else. I feel that I can work hard to have a good job and maybe even have enough money to travel or buy a home for my family. Who knows what the future holds for me, but for now, what I hear is that more Latinas are enrolling in college. And that Latinas are using both English and Spanish in their jobs. I guess mom was right when she told me that knowing Spanish would come in handy.

I feel so lucky that 54 other interns and I had the opportunity to hold our first job, cash our checks and more important, realize that this could be the beginning of a professional career for us. My next plan is to make my parents proud by graduating from high school, then graduate from college, and eventually become a professional in a field of work. I know that if I can wear many hats at home, I can do the same out there in the real world. CentroNía believed in me and my capabilities by allowing me to intern with them and I am hopeful someone else will, once again, in the near future.

This year, Jocelyn Funes is entering her last year of high school. DCAYA would like to thank Jocelyn for contributing to the youth blogger series. By lending her voice, community leaders and advocates may better understand what quality services youth need to grow into productive adults. 


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