Student Blog: Virtually the Best

Student Blog: Virtually the Best
Posted on 09/01/2020
This is the image for the news article titled Student Blog: Virtually the Bestby Zulema Gomez, Senior, Columbine High School

Hi! I'm Zulema Gomez, and I'm a senior at Columbine High School. This summer, I was one of 80 students who gained awesome work experience with my future career, 100% virtually, during these strange pandemic times in the Executive High School Internship (EHSI) Program through Warren Tech.

As interns in EHSI, we learned a lot about our future careers, how to communicate and act professionally in the workplace, and met virtually from community members such as state representatives, Mayors, college health professors, and professionals from various career fields. The program made learning fun and connected us with lots of important and knowledgeable figures in the Jeffco community. How did it all happen if we never actually got to be together in-person? 

Getting in...

We all know this March, in-person learning was abruptly brought to a standstill due COVID-19 in Colorado. So, too, the summer Executive High School Internship Program had to reinvent itself remotely so high school students could gain the same quality of learning and experiences with future careers as year's past.

Schedule of Speakers
Schedule of Speakers for EHSI

Like getting a real job, the application for EHSI was an intense two-step process and required students to show they were up for the experience. Letters of recommendation, videos, and interviews are a part of selecting the perfect interns for the EHSI program. I had to quickly learn how to use the Adobe Spark website and create a video narrating who I was, what careers I was interested in pursuing, and why I would be a good intern for EHSI. Then came an interview. Like many other candidates, it was my first formal interview. I finally received an acceptance email from EHSI, easing my anticipation and nerves. I was to be a business intern! I was thrilled to gain knowledge and work experience doing something I was currently passionate about to see if that is what I wanted to pursue in college.

EHSI before COVID-19…

In the past, EHSI students worked 100 hours, one-on-one, in-person with a mentor from a business of their choice. They reported weekly via Schoology to summarize what they did and learned through their internship and completed a series of “Workplace Readiness” courses offered by Red Rocks Community College, to earn seven concurrent enrollment credits, a “Workplace Readiness” certificate, and .5 high school credits. On top of an internship experience, interns also participated in weekly online lessons, a resumé-building workshop, mock interviews, and instruction to create a LinkedIn profile.

Still meaningful, still relevant, still awesome.

Many organizations and businesses were forced to shut down due to the worldwide pandemic. Finnancial constraints and the ever-changing health stages that Colorado undertook meant a shortage of opportunities and businesses who were willing and able to take an intern because. The EHSI program had to evolve.

The directors of the EHSI program, Sharon Usher and Jenny Herbaugh, worked day and night to meet Jeffco County’s regulations and utilize the smaller number of businesses that were able to take an intern.

In the end, 35 of the 80 EHSI particpants were paired for a career mentor experience with a business/organization. Needing an experience for the 45 remaining students, the new Career Exploration Program was created in several weeks, thanks to Herbaugh and Usher’s commitment to the Executive High School Internship program and their students.

George Stern and Jennifer Fairweather
Speakers George Stearn and Jennifer Fairweather.

In the Career Exploration Program, 45 students, including myself, earned the same learning experience and credits 100% virtually. The program included a series of virtual guest speakers, producing a group project using Project Management resources, lessons on Schoology, and access to unlimited simulations through Mindtap, an online textbook that uses simulations to teach skills.

(S)he expressed how important relationship building and trust were in any job.

The Career Exploration students had the opportunity to work with Katie Winner, owner of For the Win Communications, a business that provides support to the Jeffco community through informative and controversial articles, videos, and marketing to newly developing businesses. Students worked closely with Winner to produce a group project, based on a recent topic brought on by the pandemic. I remember when I first met Katie Winner, she expressed how important relationship building and trust were in any job. To produce her videos, she uses authenticity and remains unbiased to be a trusted source of information in the community.

Passion, Experience, and Advice

With Herbaugh, Usher, and Winner’s connections, a “Speaker Series” took place remotely for the Career Exploration students. Students interacted with a variety of professionals, learned about their education and career pathways, and got advice from each of them. One of the first presentations was the Chamber of Commerce presidents: six powerful female figures who presented their pathway to become a Chamber member and advised us on networking and marketing yourself as the biggest factors that lead to opportunities. Additional influential speakers were: Tom McDermott, Jeffco’s Chief Strategy Officer; Laura Weinberg, Mayor of Golden; a panel of State Representatives; and Dr. Dave Norton, a board-certified pediatrician.

Dr. Tom McDermott

Dr. Tom McDermott, Jeffco Schools Foundation

Connecting with professionals virtually in the Speaker Series gave us a window into our future careers. The panelists of State Representatives explained the process of passing bills and orders in the state of Colorado and gave us real-life examples of bills they supported and their results. I loved hearing from professionals of various career fields, learning about their educational paths and getting life and career advice from individuals with so many different perspectives. I'll always remember advice so many guest speakers shared over and over again: as high schoolers, we don’t have to have everything figured out now, our education and career path is likely to change, and we must find our passions in life and embrace them.

 I loved hearing from professionals of various career fields, learning about their educational paths and getting life and career advice from individuals with so many different perspectives.

For the majority of medical students, as well as the weekly Speaker Series, the program hired an educator and nurse to teach them. Each medical student received tools, such as a blood pressure kit and wound care bandages. Instructors led the students through virtual medical simulations as well as covered intricate medical topics. To enhance medical opportunities, the program offered a series of medical speakers ranging from a doctor, who volunteered in a developing country, to a nurse at a rural hospital, to Colorado State University’s Director of Immunology Research. Learning about the education that goes into any medical field, blew my mind; during neurlologist Katie Grimsrud’s discussion, she walked us through her M.D. “pathway,” offered advice about taking exams, and highlighted the importance of finding a balance between medical school and other personal life goals.

Expectations Exceeded

My personal experience as a business intern involved sending professional emails to these amazing group speakers, creating screen recording videos of myself navigating through unfamiliar websites, and creating Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides for my mentors and the other interns. I am so grateful I participated in the Speaker Series and got paired with not one, but two wonderful mentors: Mrs. Herbaugh and Mrs. Usher. Even though I never got to meet with them in-person, I was comfortable communicating with them virtually, wasn't afraid to ask questions, had conversations about who we were, and overall, experienced a positive learning and work environment that they built! I will definitely hold on to the advice I received and I feel like I will use my newly developed skills, such as sending professional emails, communicating professionally, and creating forms and instructional videos in my future. Overall, students’ expectations were exceeded.

Virtually, the best.

I am so grateful I participated in the Executive High School Internship Program! Although the program was different due to the pandemic, I feel as if I gained more experience and knowledge than I would have any other year. Attending the Guest Speaker series broadened my network and I learned about professions I never would have considered as future jobs.

The future is in our hands-- how we react and come together as a community is up to the decisions we take, now, to get through this.

I hope the reinvented EHSI Program sets an example to inspire educators and students that the same learning experience can be achieved virtually and to find the silver lining of these crazy times. We are a part of history right now, no other generation has ever experienced something quite like this. As paraphrased by Juliet Abdel, the Westminster Chamber President: The future is in our hands-- how we react and come together as a community is up to the decisions we take, now, to get through this.

Executive High School Internship Program is offered to high school seniors with a 3.5 unweighted GPA. Letters of eligibility distributed in January of a student's junior year to start the application process. Students participate for one semester during their senior year to complete the internship experience. See your high school counselor for more information or contact the program at [email protected].

Interested in writing a blog post for Warren Tech? Email Marketing and Communications Specialist, Rachel Mullen at [email protected].