As I reflect on my high school experience, it definitely was different than I expected. The pandemic disrupted just about everything in my junior and senior years, from transitioning to virtual learning to missing out on senior activities such as prom and my senior trip.
I thought an internship would be another thing I’d miss out on. Instead, I interned as a page with the Maryland General Assembly, and I learned skills I’ll be using for the rest of my life.
My fellow pages and I got to go behind the scenes to see what our elected officials do every day when they make decisions that affect all of us. I learned about the process of creating policy and just how many people are involved in that. And sometimes, I saw who isn’t involved.
For example, the General Assembly was discussing teenage sexting policies without any teenagers involved in the discussion.
We raised this with our page coordinator, and she arranged for us to speak to one of the delegates and share our perspective. I learned the importance of speaking up, especially as a young person, when something affects you.
That’s why I’m speaking up now about the importance of paid high school internships.
My internship experience as a senior at National Academy Foundation School in Baltimore was invaluable to me, and I believe all high school students should have this opportunity. Not just in “normal” times.
Through the pandemic, I have had to adapt and change just about everything in my life. My internship helped me learn how to be flexible and find solutions, even when the circumstances change.
The internship, which was part of my school’s participation in NAF, formerly the National Academy Foundation, taught me skills I need to be successful in a workplace such as working in groups and giving presentations. Those might look different in a pandemic, but these are skills I need now and will need in the future.
This was especially important for me when other school supports, extracurricular activities and mentorship opportunities were canceled.
I don’t know exactly what the future holds. I hope to study hospitality management. I do know I am more prepared and confident for what’s next because of my high school internships.
I hope that schools and lawmakers do everything possible to make sure every student gets the same opportunity.
The writer is a recent graduate of the National Academy Foundation School in Baltimore.