Odd as it may sound, the most impactful part of my time at Teen JUST-US was, by far, the first day of interning. Despite the thorough and informative emails my supervisor sent ahead of time, I felt a dizzying amalgam of apprehensiveness, anxiety, and excitement.
After walking into the cozy office space of Massachusetts Rivers Alliance, however, much of this fear was dissipated. Not only were the staff amicable and incredibly welcoming, but in our first meeting, it came to my attention that I had unprecedented freedom in the way that I work. For the first time in my life, I was free to listen to music, take walks, take breaks, and in general be trusted to make my own decisions (most of these liberties are not a part of the high school experience).
In that moment, being given all this freedom, I realized that with it came a choice. If I wanted to, I could have easily slacked off and only completed the initial work assigned. It was this moment in which I realized the importance of seizing opportunities, an ideal that was reflected in the Teen JUST-US program as a whole. Every single day, we were presented with the option to passively participate in the program’s activities or to fully engage and put ourselves forward. This ideal manifested in actively listening and asking questions to guest speakers, participating in discussions, and giving field trip activities my full attention.
Overall, Teen JUST-US taught me the importance of taking ownership of my own learning—an idea that I will carry into the upcoming school year and beyond.