Over the past summer, I have had the amazing experience of working through Teen-JUST-US Boston as an intern for YW Boston. The past six weeks have taught me so many things about life outside of school in the “real world” by providing an opportunity for me to work in a professional environment. I entered this program being terrified of speaking up in a large group and only ever sharing my ideas or opinions when I was in a group no larger than five. So it is much to my surprise that I am closing the summer catching myself talking voluntarily in meetings, both with my peers on our cohort days and superiors in staff meetings.
My internship site allowed plenty of time for onboarding, where I learned the basic rules and got familiar with the work environment at YW Boston. Almost right off the bat, I started attending staff meetings and placing time on people’s calendars to meet with them about my assigned projects. The second staff meeting I attended, I was put in a Zoom breakout room alone with a woman that I had never met before. As I realized that I could not hide behind my screen anymore and would have to talk, I got stressed. As a teenager I can’t vote, so society has taught me that my opinion doesn’t matter yet as I can’t make any real change and I don’t understand what I am talking about. But either way, I unmuted myself and started to talk. The breakout room lasted only about ten minutes, but that was the first experience in my life where I was able to talk about a topic I was passionate about with an educated adult who was willing to listen to what I had to say and give me even more information about the topic. Once that breakout room ended and we were put back into the larger staff meeting, I found myself looking at the interactions I have with people in my professional life in a different light. It hit me that even though I am young and still have so much to learn, the people around me are glad to have discussions about my opinions and that I am not a burden by speaking up and asking questions.
Overall, the last six weeks have made an impact on me that I’m sure will last a lifetime. I have learned how to manage in a professional environment and learned about countless problems facing the world and steps I can take to do my part in helping solve them. Most importantly I have had the opportunity to meet and become friends with some amazing people who have each inspired me in their own way.