Work-based Learning

What Happens When a High School Internship Takes You to City Hall?

Izzy Fitzgerald’s story provides a look at how work-based learning in high school can give students a running start.

Preface: Why High School Work-Based Learning?

Work-based learning experiences — like internships, apprenticeships, and co-ops — can help students in deciding what paths they may want to take after high school. But while 79% of high school students say they’re interested in these opportunities, only 34% said they knew how to find them — and only 2% have actually completed one, according to a recent ASA study.

This is despite the fact that work-based learning is proven to increase students’ persistence, graduation, and employment rates.

The story below, written by now-college freshman Izzy Fitzgerald, underscores the importance of providing these experiences to students in high school (or sooner) — and the difference they can make in shaping a young person’s future.

Izzy was previously a student at San Diego Met High School, a Big Picture Learning school.

Izzy’s Story, in her Own Words

My story is about a multi-racial queer girl growing up in the predominantly White, sunny City of San Diego. As I grew up, I found the societal complacencies and what was expected of me weighing heavy on my heart. That changed when I started high school — not at any high school — but at one that is geared toward tapping into students’ interests and giving them the chance to do internships throughout high school.

Based on my interests, these ranged from a marketing job at a thrift store, assisting a makeup artist, and finally, finding my real passion and stepping into the hands of politics. In the last semester of my senior year, I graduated early and began an internship and later, a job at San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria’s office. I am now a freshman at the University of San Francisco and because of my internships, I know that I want to work for policy advisors in a community engagement role in a nonprofit or government agency. I want other students to know that real world internships can help them find out what they want to or might not want to do, including possibly going into debt by going to college. It also gives you time to breathe and be creative in your job options as you are only in high school.

Why I think internships are so important:

Internships help you find your identity — before someone else tells you what it’s supposed to be. Not all kids are interested in going to college, which has unfortunately become our society’s default. Internships give you experience and show you what else is possible for your future. Follow your interests and passions, and you’ll discover lots of possibilities for your future.

High school is the time to start getting out of your comfort zone. High school is meant for mistakes and for learning who you are and who you want to be, so it is incredibly important to jump into the deep end. The worst thing that could happen is that you get imposter syndrome and feel that you do not belong. The phrase “fake it until you make it” is incredibly true, though, and has helped me make an impact in my workspace. Instead of feeling afraid of my peers because they are more experienced or older, I learned to learn from them as well as work with them.

“It’s too hard to find an internship” — Wrong. Believing that high school internships are unavailable is a self-defeating prophecy. There are so many resources on the Internet and within your own school and community. Students can network online and knock on any door — virtual or in person — that might appeal to them. Everyone finds free work helpful. Use that fact to the best of your ability.

So, based on my experience, I encourage every high school student to start securing internships — and get a jump on their self-prescribed future! All you have to do is go find them.