Summer Fun with Youth Interns at PPL
Hanan says she usually doesn’t do much in the summers, preferring to spend her time alone and indoors. But this summer, she’s working at PPL as one of four interns from the STEP-UP Discover program. “I’ve been out of the house more this summer than the entire rest of my life!”
STEP-UP Discover is one of three branches of the STEP-UP summer youth employment program, along with Explore and Achieve. The youngest focus area of the three groups, Discover recruits, prepares, and matches 800 youth ages 14-15 to work as interns at about 90 Minneapolis non-profit and public sector agencies. PPL has partnered with STEP-UP for 15 years by serving as an intern host site and conducting Discover’s spring work readiness training. Designed to set the interns up for success by developing professional skills they’ll need in the workplace, the trainings cover topics such as how to create a good email address, record a professional outgoing voicemail message, communicate with their supervisor, and handle conflict in the workplace.
In addition to the spring trainings, this year PPL also designed and facilitated a midsummer professional development day for interns. Taught by PPL’s MERC & LNAS instructors, the day encourages interns to think about which careers might match their personalities and skills. When asked about their career goals, each of PPL’s four interns described visions as varied and exciting as they are. Hanan has wanted to be a writer for as long as she can remember, and though she’s not sure exactly what she’ll end up doing, she knows she’ll incorporate that passion somehow. Inspired by movie and TV characters, Jack sees himself ending up in medicine or engineering, as those combine his interests in science, creativity, and helping people. A career in nursing lies ahead for Ari; her main goal is to earn money to support her family. Grace plans to open her own hair, makeup, and nail salon in California, where it’s her favorite summer weather all the time.
For Jack and many other STEP-UP interns, getting up early for summer jobs takes some getting used to. But he and the other three PPL interns expressed their gratitude for this opportunity and have been pleasantly surprised that their jobs are also fun! PPL staff supervisors agree that it’s a meaningful experience for all involved: “It’s so powerful to have relationships with people of all ages. Mentoring someone who hasn’t had a job before, that’s potentially influential to them. And it’s also helping me grow too. I value spending so much time with a young person, getting to know her insight and how she views things,” says Ari’s supervisor, Haley. Grace and Hanan’s supervisor, Michael, says he particularly appreciates his interns; “I love their level of commitment, how independent they are, and their fresh ideas—they’re always thinking outside the box. I think it’s great to have young energy around. They bring up good issues we need to address in our community”.
PPL’s collaboration with the STEP-UP program helps hundreds of young people prepare for employment while providing the PPL Volunteer and Resident Services teams with talented, hard-working, and charismatic summer interns. PPL also employs youth interns from the City of St. Paul’s Right Track program, and school-year interns from Cristo Rey Jesuit High School. As Angie, who leads the training initiatives, explained, “For a lot of these students, this is their first exposure to thinking about a career, and I think it’s so cool that we get to provide that to them. With the training being at MCTC, it’s also great exposure to a college campus. The opportunity to plant those seeds is my favorite part of STEP-UP.”