For Latino high school and college students, the summer is a great time to gain knowledge and experience through an internship. Some are paid internships, which makes it easier. If an internship is unpaid but worth taking for the experience, some students combine it with a summer job or part-time paid work like babysitting or tutoring.
Many good internships require the application process be done before the spring, but there is still time to approach individuals, organizations or companies if you have not cemented your summer job and internship plans. Summer experiences outside the classroom are invaluable in teaching young Latinos about careers and workplace environment and possible fields of study. It's also a chance to make connections and maybe even end up with a valuable mentor.
We asked three young Latino professionals about their former summer gigs.
From scrubbing toilets in movie theaters to interning on Capitol Hill, they worked tirelessly when outside of class. Here's what they have to say to other teens and young adults searching for a job or meaningful summer experience.
Tyler A. Moroles, 26, Minneapolis, Minnesota
Which summer job are you most proud of?
I would have to say I am most proud of my Internship in Washington D.C. and my summer research at Columbia University. But since we are talking about the summer, I will have to go with my Columbia University Summer Research Program because it was the most empowering.
I came in feeling inadequate and not belonging among such a highly qualified and intelligent group of individuals. As time went on and I really pushed myself I realized that I, too, can be within the ranks of these highly successful people.
What advice would you give to a student worried about their summer plans?
Customize, customize, customize. Make the internship application review team think that you just fit into their program like a lost puzzle piece. Reframe all the work you do as a natural progression to this internship, trust me that is what they are looking for.
Ask questions from people who know more than you. Always pick the brain of people who have been there and have done this before you never know how useful that advice could be.
Start early and just do it. The thing about internships is it goes to the people who turn in their application and on time. For every internship there are plenty of students who start the application but in the end their heart is not there and they never end up finishing it. If you start make sure to follow through to the end.
Think long term. Imagine how this internship could launch your career in the direction of your choosing. See where this internship fits in your long term goals or if it goes too far off track. If you can see where it can bring you to where you want to be in 5 or 10 years then you need to apply. You do not need to know your whole life trajectory just know where you want to generally go in the future.
Dream big, never think you are inadequate for certain internships, just go for it and see what happens. If you don't get it you at least gain experience in applying for internships, which is a very applicable skill throughout your life believe it or not.
Mala Muñoz, 24, Los Angeles, California
Which summer job are you most proud of?
I’m very proud of my first summer job at a two dollar movie theater in Pasadena when I was in high school. I was cleaning toilets, sponging down the hot dog machine and checking theaters for daytime drinking during Shrek 2. That job was not easy. I was on my feet all day, cleaning literal s***, counting pennies for customers and going home every day covered in a thin layer of imitation butter.
Each summer experience I had was impactful in its own right, and every job or internship added a lot of depth to my high school and college years. During my high school and college years I held a couple of unpaid summer internships at various non-profit organizations and legal aid clinics.
One summer I worked as the Outreach and Redistricting intern at the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) in Los Angeles. Another summer I interned at the East Los Angeles Center for Law and Justice, helping with their Eastside Housing Rights Clinic. During my senior year of college I interned at the New England Innocence Project in Boston. Finally, I had a summer job as a teacher’s aide and tutor at a math and science summer camp for K-8 students.
What was the hardest part about getting a summer gig?
Sometimes the hardest part of landing a summer internship is surviving the summer if that internship is unpaid. Many Latino youth don’t have the luxury of pursuing an unpaid internship because we need to work. Going three months without a paycheck is simply not an option for some of us. I loved my summer internships, but I was also just barely scraping by, and sometimes it was difficult just to find bus fare just to get to my internship in the first place.
In high school, but especially in college, plenty of students of color have to prioritize a job that is probably not in their desired field so they can survive while their wealthier peers might have the economic flexibility to pursue unpaid work, or even unpaid work abroad. Being young of color, and a student can be a very difficult balancing act. On the one hand we want and deserve the experience of pursuing our passions and developing as humans. On the other, we may have to put some of our dreams on pause while we work at less than ideal, probably underpaid jobs, to stay afloat.
What advice would you give to a student about summer plans, whether it be for this summer or the next?
I would say to start planning as early as possible and tap into whatever resources might exist around you. If you don’t have friends in high places, you’re going to have to hustle and do your research. Take time out of your winter break and your weekends to research internships and jobs that are accessible to you. Find out if your school offers grants or scholarships for students who want to pursue unpaid internships. Talk to your counselor, advisor or financial aid officer to find out what resources you might qualify for.
Do a search for scholarships designed for Latino youth. Find out if there are jobs or research opportunities that you can pursue at your school or partner institutions during the summers. Apply to any and every opportunity that comes your way. Utilize your teachers and their years of experience and ask them what suggestions they might have for you. Finally, don’t be afraid to email the Director of that organization that you really want to work for. Recognize what your strengths are and publicize them.
Giovanna Fernandez, 22, Boston, Massachusetts
Where did you start looking for summer gigs?
I had been talking to friends at my part time job, saying that I wanted an internship for that summer, but I didn't know where to begin searching. Then, a girl told me she knew of a production office in my hometown, Burlington, Massachusetts. She had a friend that worked there the summer before. This was a super casual conversation but that sent me into research, and I found the email of the internship coordinator online.
I sent an email out to the coordinator, introducing myself and asking about the internship. A few weeks later I got a response giving me details and asking for a resume. I almost missed the deadline to send in my resume because I didn't really have one ready. I actually met with my advisor at the time, who helped me edit and finalize it before I sent it in.
What was the hardest part about getting it?'
That week I was asked to go in for an interview. I'm mostly really proud of it because during my interview, the coordinator noted that I was still really young. And she asked, since I lived so close, if I were willing to accept the internship for another semester because the summer slots were typically really competitive. Of course I said yes, but a few weeks later I was accepted for that summer.
What advice would you give to someone in the midst of applying to internships?
My biggest piece of advice would be to research whatever company you're going in for before your interview. I suggest you know relevant information to bring up during the interview. This also helps you become more confident during your interview, and helps you figure out whether or not you actually want to work for that company.