Every student at City Charter High School graduates with real-world experience as an intern in a local business or organization. One recent graduate, Amaris Martin, now in college at Point Park University and focused on International Studies, looks back at her mentor and internship at TeenBloc, an organization exploring relevant social issues and how the students feel about them.
“I enjoyed a lot of things about my internship,” she says. “But the most enjoyable thing was being able to actually put my input, my thoughts and my creativity into each project that I did.”
No surprise there. Amaris’s internship mentor was a remarkable woman who literally uses her art degree and creative background to help students express themselves. As the Creative Lead and Youth Developer for TeenBloc (a student-focused extension of A+ Schools), Christa Drew knows how to give teens the space to feel comfortable enough to communicate some of the issues they are facing. Her approach is to empower students to find their voice… and find themselves along the way.
She explains TeenBloc’s goal. “The hope is that by understanding students better, teachers will become better teachers. So we work with advocacy and storytelling projects to share a student perspective.”
At TeenBloc, students meet two to three times a month to talk about issues affecting the nation and the schools themselves, exploring common themes and experiences. Students might be wondering why things may be the way they are in their schools and how they can communicate those experiences visually so decision makers can see the human side of an issue, rather than just the numbers or statistics.
Amaris found this environment empowering. “Christa really allowed me to bring my own creativity into the mix. And I thought that was absolutely amazing. TeenBloc allows teens to voice their opinion, so I would incorporate teen perspectives into my projects. I would ask them, ‘So, what do you think about this? How are you feeling about this? What do you think could change and could be better?’ ”
One podcast in particular comes to mind: “We featured a local singer who had just had a song released on the radio. She’s a teenager, so we interviewed her: what her experience has been, what she is trying to convey in her music and we capped it off with a podcast of her doing a performance at the studio,” Amaris recalls.
Amaris also picked up valuable skills at City High that came in handy in her internship, including time management skills, independent thinking, proficiencies in computer design, video production/editing, and workplace skills like the ability to communicate professionally.
Mentor Christa Drew admits, “I’m not the kind of person who just says nice things about people for the sake of politeness, but Amaris really did an amazing job. Staying on task. If she was unsure about something, she would ask. Very independent. She did a lot of our social media – a lot of really thoughtful posts. Sometimes I would have her reach out to people in the community for support (passing out our flyers and things like that). At first she was hesitant, but after a while she got really good at outreach. And then I threw her into doing video recordings of our podcasts, editing, and graphics for flyers and promotional materials.”
The poise and confidence Amaris gained is clearly attributable to her internship. Christa Drew was not simply a supervisor who gave her busy work, but a true mentor, challenging her, helping her stretch and grow through her TeenBloc experience.
As one of City High’s exceptional mentor partners, Christa Drew is yet another example of the life-changing impact these remarkable partners can have on our students through the City High internship program.