Education

Young professionals show teens paths to success

 

mherrera@MiamiHerald.com

For kids who have little first-hand experience with lawyers or business professionals in their families, a career in such fields may seem out of reach. So a group of young professionals in Miami is trying to help by introducing teens to real corporate offices and telling them about how to get there themselves.

Over the last two months, students from low-performing high schools visited businesses and learned about what it takes to get jobs at those companies. The program was started through Miami on the Move, a group of 21 young professionals.

“If you’re the son or the daughter of a professional, you already know the steps you need to take,” said Alejandro Gomez Ujfalussy, a member for Miami on the Move. “For them, it’s overwhelming, they just don’t have that mapped out.”

For some of the students, the field trip was the first time they had ever been inside a business environment.

“I sat right in the presidents chair,” said Northwestern High School junior Marvin Saintfleur, who visited the Wells Fargo Center in Downtown Miami. “It made feel like I would be a CEO one day too.”

The One Day program took 145 juniors and seniors from Northwestern, Booker T. Washington and Law Enforcement Officers Memorial high schools on field trips to businesses. They were given tours, info sessions by professionals within the companies which included Wells Fargo, the University of Miami and Burger King’s corporate headquarters. They then went to the Miami Science Museum to put together digital scrapbooks of their day and to recap what they learned. Some of the top students were awarded scholarships between $500 to $1,000 by Miami on the Move, which began as a Leadership Miami challenge.

Marvin and his group were given a tour of a bank safety deposit box, told the history of Wells Fargo, spoke with various bank leaders and were given a financial education workshop on budgeting, saving, and financing college.

“When we first went to a bank I thought it was going to be boring,” Marvin said. “But it was interesting to see how money moves and how banking works.”

The aim of the program was to show students what opportunities were available to them and teach them what they needed to be successful, such as interview skills, résumé writing and business etiquette.

Nikki Brown, a teacher at Northwestern, sees the program is good chance for students to learn about how workplaces operate.

“They got an opportunity to see how it works and to believe they can be a part of that with the right mentoring and the right education,” Brown said.

Brown took a group of 20 students to Burger King Corp., where they were shown the test kitchen and Burger King University, and where they sat in on an international conference call. She said the group of students were treated like “special guests,” helping them to feel comfortable.

“Everybody was friendly,” said Even Milcette, a junior at Northwestern. “They made you feel welcome.”

Even, who also received a scholarship, was already interested in business before his trip to Burger King, but said he learned a lot about how businesses actually run.

“I thought it was like, just sell burgers, make money, keep people happy, but it’s more than that,” Even said.

He was amazed by what he learned at Burger King and said the whole trip was motivating.

“It made me want to go further,” he said.

The corporations sought to give the students hands-on experience and to make the careers seem more accessible.

“We felt that it was part of our community responsibility,” said Jane Gilbert, who spoke to students at Wells Fargo. “We’re only as successful as the communities where we do business.”

Gilbert, who is a community affairs officer for Wells Fargo, said that by showing students around, the company also hopes to pique their interest in the business.

“We’re always hoping to recruit future talent and diverse talent,” she said.

Brown believes that attitudes toward students like this are critical.

“That to me is so important that these type of employment opportunities are so obtainable,” Brown said.

For the students, sometimes it was not just the business, but also the perks that came with those jobs that was motivating.

Marvin was awed when he visited the 38th floor in the Wells Fargo building and saw the view.

“One day I want an office view like that,” he said.

For more information about Miami on the Move, visit miamionthemove.wordpress.com.

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