Transportation as Transformation:
High School Interns Discover New Skills and Interests
High school intern Brenden Foster making a presentation at final intern ceremony, August 14, 2012.
(Photo by Michelle Tan)
Interns listen to a presentation (©2012 Peter Beeler)
Intern Jacqueline Rosenberg gives her presentation
(©2012 Peter Beeler)
MTC interns on Bay Bridge tour, August 7, 2012.
(Photo by Michelle Tan)
August 15, 2102
Poised and professional, some 30
high school students took to the podium at MTC’s Oakland auditorium
yesterday to share their transformative experiences as participants
in MTC’s High School Internship Program. Many of the students
involved in the program have discovered new interests and abilities
through their summer jobs, and have woken up to the vast array of career
offerings in the transportation industry.
The interns represent all nine counties and embody the range of social and cultural backgrounds that are characteristic of the Bay Area. While hired under the auspices of MTC’s High School Internship Program, they are deployed to transportation and city/county offices around the region, where they are supervised by welcoming mentors. MTC pays the bulk of the interns' salaries, although some local agencies are so enthusiastic about the program that they hire extra interns with their own funds.
Displaying newly honed communication skills, interns participating in yesterday's showcase created short PowerPoint presentations on their job duties, and the skills and lessons they acquired, and delivered their talks to an audience of peers, intern supervisors and MTC staff.
While many of these interns had not known a great deal about the transportation industry before the start of their internships, several, like 511 Contra Costa intern Luther Kuefner, are starting to consider a career in the field as their 10-week-long internships come to an end.
“I had no idea about the type of rigorous work that goes into maintaining transportation for our community before my internship,” said Kuefner, who will be a senior at Campolindo High School in Moraga this fall.
Kuefner worked on the “Discover and Go” program, an initiative organized by Contra Costa Libraries to offer complimentary museum passes to library patrons. This month, 511 Contra Costa offered free BART passes to anyone who took advantage of the “Discover and Go” program, and Kuefner was in charge of sorting data from the applicants and mailing the BART tickets. “It was eye-opening to see how many people within Contra Costa County were public transportation users, and it helped me to realize how important the transportation industry is,” he said.
In his presentation, Kuefner noted the value of the skills he attained from working at 511 Contra Costa: “I have become fluent with data entry, expanded my knowledge about how transportation works in my county, and gained experience working in an office. “
Hannah Vincent, a marketing intern at the Solano Transportation Authority, also said that her internship broadened her view of the transportation field. “At my internship, I’ve learned about the engineering, the planning and the marketing that goes into transportation. I’ve seen and helped people working to engineer solutions to transportation problems, and created transportation-related graphics,” she said.
Vincent, an incoming senior at Vallejo High School, also noted that her internship has helped her to learn about all the different kinds of jobs she can pursue in the industry of transportation. “I can be an engineer, a writer, a business manager, a consultant, and more,” she said.
In early August, MTC took a number of the high school interns on an exclusive tour of the new Bay Bridge East Span now under construction. Vincent had the opportunity to see the structure from all angles — by boat and by car, and on foot as the interns were led across the span as well as inside its bowels. “The Bay Bridge tour changed my perspective about the transportation field. It made it more exciting. Before it was never an option for a career or education. Now, it is,” she said.
Rose Dhaliwal, an intern for the Roads and Airports Department (RAD) in Santa Clara County, said that even though she did not plan to study a transportation-related major or pursue a career in transportation when she applied for the intern program, she has been inspired by her internship to possibly do so. “I’m majoring in psychology next year at Santa Clara University, but I may just wind up minoring in something related to my work here at the Roads and Airports Department,” she said.
Other high school interns found that they did not wish to pursue a major in college directly related to their internships. Still, those interns, like Katherine Rozsa, discussed the value of their experiences.
Rozsa interned for the Marin County Department of Public Works, where she made graphics out of traffic accident reports, prepared speed survey reports, measured road widths, researched road designs, and discussed solutions to issues and complaints from the community.
“Although I do not plan to major in civil engineering at college, I got to experience the ins and outs of working at a job and have realized that working for a county or city wherever I settle down can be very gratifying since I can actually bring about change in my own community,” said Rozsa, an incoming freshman this fall at Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania.
“Every phase of this program is a learning point,” says Michelle Tan, coordinator of MTC’s High School Internship Program. “Interns learn how to apply for a job and interview. Then, if they are selected, they learn how to conduct themselves and work at their first job. Students are not required to have previous job experience to apply.”
The summer internship program for high school students was conceptualized by MTC’s Minority Citizens Advisory Committee (MCAC, which since has been absorbed into MTC’s Policy Advisory Council) 12 years ago with the goal of exposing young people to careers in transportation, and to provide summer job opportunities. A total of 818 high school students applied to the program this year, double the prior year’s pool of 400. Only 47 of the applicants were selected by the 43 agencies participating in 2012, making the program highly competitive this year.
Co-founder of the High School Internship program Jacqee Castain is pleased by the continued interest of high school students in the program. “In the past two years the program has done exceptionally well in terms of applicant numbers because students can now apply online,” said Castain, a former member of MCAC.
“At first we weren’t getting responses from the hiring agencies, but now everyone is getting involved. Some agencies are paying for some of the interns themselves because they want to add interns into the program,” echoed Candy Gayles, another co-founder of the program and former member of MCAC.
On hand for the presentations yesterday, Gayles warmly greeted the interns. Even without knowing the students personally, she described how proud she was of them. “Whether the interns decide to go into transportation or not, it’s going to help them in any field. These are my babies growing up,” she said.
— Sarah Zahedi, MTC 2012 college intern