Orange County-funded Summer Internship Program Provides High School Students with Life-Changing Opportunities
When 20-year-old Brian Salamanca graduated from Wekiva High School two years ago, he was unsure about what to do next. But thanks to encouragement from his sister, who participated in the Opportunities Program for Students (POPS) summer internship program in 2011, he decided to look into getting an internship at Orange County, and he has not looked back since.
It gave me the opportunity to get my foot in the door here and made me realize I love county work," said Salamanca, a temp Permit Analyst in the Division of Building Safety. "I don't know where I'd be without that internship … probably playing video games at home."
POPS is a locally funded charitable organization whose mission is to enrich the life experiences of teenagers as they transition into adulthood by providing personal- and professional-development opportunities regardless of social, economic or environmental barriers they may face. The organization's summer internship program has been funded by Orange County's Community and Family Services Department, Citizens Commission for Children Division, for the last eight years.
The County partners with POPS to get 35 students placed in paid internships, which are 31 hours a week for seven weeks. Currently, the County has interns placed in various divisions, including the Citizens Commission for Children, Fire Rescue, Building Safety, Parks & Recreation, Community Action, Head Start and Neighborhood Centers for Families, as well as with District 6 Commissioner Victoria Siplin.
"The internships help 16-to-18-year-old high school students build professional acumen and prepare them for professional environments," said Tanesha Mixon, Orange County Family Services Program Manager. "All the County divisions that have interns give positive feedback, and supervisors find them very helpful."
During his internship, Salamanca best remembers the "Plan Room" at Building Safety. "I definitely gained an appreciation for that kind of work," he asserted. "We had to roll all the department copies of building plans into the main copies, so attention to detail regarding permit numbers was critical."
After Salamanca's internship ended, his supervisor and mentor, Shawn Anderson, sent him to Top Talent Staffing, which hired him out to the County as a temp. "She liked my work and decided to hire me, but to be a permanent permit analyst you have to have two years of experience, which I didn't have at the time. My goal is to apply for a full-time job here as soon as one opens up."
Salamanca, who is finishing up his AA degree at Valencia College, will be transferring to the University of Central Florida next semester to pursue a bachelor's degree in Business Management. He hopes to eventually get a Master's in Business Administration and Project Management.
"I can't say enough about my mentor. She taught me a lot, including how to speak to people on the phone, conduct myself and act like a professional. She gave me the opportunity to have a future with the County. If I could recommend anything, I'd say stay in the internship program, stay humble and work hard, and you'll see the fruits of your labor in the future."
For more information on POPS and the summer internship program, contact Angela Chestang, Division Manager, Citizens' Commission for Children, at firstname.lastname@example.org or Tanesha Mixon, Family Services Program Manager, at email@example.com.