By Talia Owens
Wow. That’s really all I can say right now is… wow. If you would have told me in June of 2016 that I would spend the next year not only be an executive director of my own non profit program but also help in the process of other students doing the same I would have laughed in your face and asked “Why would I even do?” You would’ve had me at the whole being my own boss thing, but the other thing about working for 8 months without pay? Especially during my summer before college. That’s where you would have lost me. Only because I didn’t really imagine my working during that time. Instead I thought I'd be spending time going out with friends and relaxing.
Looking back on it, I have changed and grown a lot in the past year. Last summer the only thing I was worried about was how my social life would transform between the start of senior year to the start of college. Now I’m more worried about… well being honest the whole social life thing is still a big priority for me because I’m still an eighteen year old girl but now I’m an eighteen year old girl who also focuses on building a brand and networking with influential people.
When I was presented the opportunity to work with LITE a few months back, I was extremely excited but also nervous. I was obviously thrilled because this organization is one that has done so much for me and now I was able to go behind the scenes and see where all the magic happened. On the other had I was slightly terrified because I knew that this internship wouldn’t be one where I would just sit around and be good company or get a pat on the back for doing mediocre tasks; it would be hard work. Not that I wasn’t down for tackling somewhat difficult tasks or actually working. I just have never been around people who were either extremely intense in a work environment or who were extremely passionate about what they were doing. Despite all my worries, I meshed well in the environment quite nicely. I’m not sure if that’s because I’m able to adjust to new atmospheres well or because I’m able to change the atmosphere in a way to make me more comfortable. Maybe it’s a little bit of both? I haven’t quite figured that out.
But I digress. The summer chapter of this internship was easily one of the best experiences of my life. Of course I was extremely busy from the moment I came into the office at 10:00am (Sometimes 9:40 because I like to be prompt. Sometimes 10:15 because the train is obnoxious and unpredictable) until I left at 3:00pm, but even with the work load everything about it was so incredibly enjoyable. In between creating social media content, feverishly interviewing our Innovation Fellows with summer internships, and aiding in the communication between the team and prior former students I was able to create amazing relationships that seemed minute at first but quickly became some of the most valuable connections of life.
I wasn’t just sitting in an office and working for five hours a day, three days a week I was learning. I was learning about the importance of these new found connections I made. I was introduced to new ideas and outlooks that in turn made me deeply reflect within myself and caused me to seek out what my deeper purpose was. These are things that are hard to grasp when working at a job that’s only benefit is providing a bit of pocket change. I know so many people who talked down on my decision to pursue this internship because, in their eyes, I was wasting my time volunteering when I could be making money for myself in preparation for college life. What they all failed to understand is while they were lightly stacking their paper, I was stacking my experience and adding to my resume. That’s something they had yet to start. So when their summer money dries out, I’ll still have my new found expertise. It’s called investing your time wisely.
Given how much time I spent with LITE, I could honestly go on and on what I learned and what took away from this influential chapter in my life. I could write an entire novel about how much this program means to me and how much i am going to miss working with the team and how much I loved being able to aid in the process of changing minority students’ lives. Through all of my rambling and all of my playful commentary there is an actual reflection with depth I promise. With my time at LITE, I not only learned the importance of knowing how to market a brand, giving proper exposure to minority excellence, or tailoring content to a broad audience. I not only learned the importance of having a strong team, networking with those that can help me later in my career, or coming up with ways to connect minded youth to wonderful opportunities. I learned how to be a better version of myself both in a professional sense and a personal sense. Working around the people I worked around, in the job field I did made me realize things about myself that were always there, but I wasn’t confident in displaying and for that I am extremely grateful.
My internship with LITE was more that a summer job, was more than a way to pass the time, was more than a resume filler. It was an experience. One that I will look back on ten… twenty… even thirty years from now and know that this is what shaped me to be the person I am today. I may be saying goodbye to the countless days in the office but I’m not saying goodbye to the relationship I grew with this organization. Since being introduced as a finalist last year, this has been my world and it will remain that way. Always and forever.