By Kaitlyn Chen, IEA Summer Programs Intern
This summer, I had the chance to intern at the Institute for Educational Advancement. The eight-week internship went beyond my expectations. I learned so much more than I could have asked for, whether that was figuring out how to entertain Academy students or learning how to juggle different tasks. In the past, I usually had one mentor to guide me throughout my internship. It was different when I entered IEA. I worked with multiple staff members, learning something new from them each day. I felt like everyone was a mentor to me in some way or another. However, Niña was my main mentor. She not only trained me to be an intern, but also to be a role model for other students. Her kindness, patience and selflessness really spoke volumes to me during this entire process, and I look up to her for that.
My role as an intern included helping both Academy, an academic program tailored towards gifted elementary and middle school students, and EXPLORE, an externship program that immersed high school students into a professional field of their choice. On Mondays and Wednesdays, I would be based at the Academy site, where I would take pictures, watch over the students during their breaks, attend to their needs, assist the other staff members and work on any additional tasks. Interacting with the younger students made me realize that a person should never be judged by his or her age. The brightness and intelligence these students exuded really shone in the classroom and in the relationships they formed with their peers.
Once I finished with Academy tasks, I would then work on EXPLORE, which included recording any budget-related expenses, updating the databases and prepping for the workshops. I also checked, processed and formatted the students’ assignments before compiling them into their very own E-portfolios. Overall, I’m proud of these students for all their hard work. Their E-portfolios reflected the progress they had made over their weeks with the program.
On Fridays, I would switch gears. Instead of being at Academy, I would go on various excursions with Niña and EXPLORE students. Some of the places we visited included Cal Tech, USC and the Arts District. On the first week of EXPLORE, we took a “Green Muffin” tour, exploring the heart of Downtown LA. I even went through my very first escape room experience that left me feeling stumped yet exhilarated. My group was so close to escaping! In the weeks following, I sat in on the EXPLORE workshops, where I learned about public speaking, networking, resume-building and the college application process.
Knowing that my time was limited with these students, I tried to make the most out of the workshops we had by getting to know each one of them. I found that the students were not only vocal about their opinions but were also creative in their own little ways. During lunch, the students would separate into their own tight-knit groups, with one group socializing and the other group playing cards. Although both groups had two very different dynamics, they came together quite nicely. The students were very accepting of each other and tried to include everyone in the group discussions and activities. These moments of collaboration made me think of myself as an EXPLORE extern once again.
It’s strange to think that I went from being an EXPLORE extern to an IEA intern. Instead of going through the program, I was now helping to prepare for it. I’ll never forget IEA and the impact it has had on my life. IEA has given me the tools and confidence I’ll need to succeed in life and in the future. I know that if I ever need advice, support, encouragement, or just someone to talk to, I can always rely on any of the IEA staff members. Although my internship is over, the journey isn’t over for me just yet. I’m planning on volunteering with IEA throughout the school year. Who knows where the organization will lead me next? I’m excited to find out!