How workplace mentorships are helping underserved Orange County students gain career insight and employability skills.
As she prepared to meet with various companies, Candy was anxious knowing that these interviews would decide where she would spend her summer as an intern. “After the first one, I felt much better,” said Candy, a senior at Los Amigos High School. “I knew I could do it.”
I feel much more confident about having a professional conversation and being able to get the job I want now that I’ve had this experience.
Candy interviewed with several of the 37 Orange County companies that partnered with Orange County United Way’s Youth Career Connections Workplace Mentorship Program, which serves local underserved high school students through a collaboration with Garden Grove Unified School. As part of the program, Candy and 79 other students spent two weeks developing work etiquette, learning interview techniques, and building communication skills prior to being placed with a company based on the career path they selected to pursue, including:
- Arts, Media, & Entertainment (Digital Arts Media)
- Business, Marketing, & Finance
- Information & Communication Technologies
- Engineering, Design, & Architecture
- Health Services & Medical Technology
With an affinity for math and organization, Candy chose finance and, after making a good impression during her interviews, was paired with American Financial Network, Inc. For four weeks, Candy spent her Tuesdays and Wednesdays gaining first-hand career experience. She also learned about digital marketing, something she hadn’t considered as a career path previously, but discovered she really enjoyed it. “I liked learning Adobe applications and even got to design a flyer on my own,” said Candy. “I liked getting to make the creative decisions.” A design of Candy’s was even used for one of the company’s social media posts.
Before, I saw myself just going into accounting, but the internship made me realize I also like being creative—even at work. So, now I plan to take some art classes in college too.
The Workplace Mentorship also helped Candy realize that she loves communicating and working with others, and confirmed that she wants to be able to collaborate with her future coworkers.
Candy’s favorite part about the workplace mentorship was getting to interact with the employees and learn about their career journeys. “I thought there was only one way to be successful—go to college and get a job,” shared Candy. “But listening to everyone’s stories was very interesting and showed me that there are different pathways to success.”
There were also challenges along the way that Candy had to overcome. Aside from learning new software programs and applying different skills, Candy faced the obstacle of actually getting to the Workplace Mentorship location. She lived far away and, at first, wasn’t sure how she’d make it there. “Having to navigate that problem helped me see I can overcome obstacles,” said Candy. Despite the distance, Candy didn’t miss a single day—a true testament to her professionalism and dedication.
In the end, Candy says the Workplace Mentorship was better than she expected. The experience helped her both personally and academically, enabling her to meet new people, discover new things about herself, and gain valuable life skills.
It was such a relief to see people being creative and having fun in the workplace because I always thought you had to be very serious at work, but it was actually the opposite. I saw how happy the employees were and heard them making jokes—I could see that they really enjoyed their work.
Congratulations to Candy and the other 79 students who, upon completing their Workplace Mentorships, received 10 school credits, a certificate of completion, and a $200 scholarship!
We are grateful to all the companies and organizations that hosted students for our 2022 Youth Career Connections Workplace Mentorship Program. Thank you for providing career insight and sharing employability skills. Your continued partnership is invaluable in supporting Orange County students!
AAA, American Financial Network, Antis Roofing & Waterproofing, Bassman Blaine, Bracken’s Kitchen, CHOC, Commercial Bank of California, Community Action Partnership of Orange County, Congressman Lou Correa District Office, Costa Mesa Chamber of Commerce, Eaton Aerospace, First Service Residential, Healthpeak Properties, Inc. Ingram Micro, Irvine Technology Corporation, L3 Harris Technologies, Lestonnac Free Clinic, Medtronic, Orange County Human Relations, Proforma Element 7, Project Vietnam Foundation, SMA, Inc., Snell & Wilmer, L.L.P., Synoptek, Van Gordon Insurance Agency, ViewSonic Corp., and Ware Malcomb.
Empowered by Orange County United Way’s United for Student Success℠ initiative, Youth Career Connections is an integrated work-based learning program that infuses classroom learning with real-world career experiences.
Want to support student success in OC?
If you would like to support local students, we encourage you to:
Contact Yahaira Ortiz at YahairaO@UnitedWayOC.org or 949.263.6142 with questions or to learn how your company can partner with us to offer exciting opportunities like these for local students.