The first cohort of JA Fellows celebrated their graduation from the program at their Semester Showcase last week on Friday, January 20, 2023. These senior students from Lincoln High School shared the impact of the program on their professional journeys.
To the volunteers, educators, and parents who attended the showcase, the impact of JA Fellows was unmistakable as students described how they are motivated for their futures with their newly acquired professional skillsets and confident mindsets.
While each student had their own unique story and experience in the program, there was a common theme of optimism and inspiration. Whether they are planning to attend college, head straight into the workforce, or even start their own business, students stated they felt better prepared for the next chapter in their lives.
Providing Relevant Hands-On Learning Experiences
JA Fellows spent their first semester learning critical financial literacy concepts and exploring work readiness curriculum in the classroom. They attended career panels and on-site job shadows to explore different career pathways in the local San Diego economy.
The job shadow at Hawthorne Cat was a popular favorite among the students. They toured the facility, checked out some of the construction machines, and inquired about the various careers in the construction industry. Students also job shadowed at IONIS Pharmaceuticals, the San Diego Zoo, and Perfect Snacks.
Lincoln Fellows at Hawthorne Cat for a job shadow
During the second semester, students participated in internships at local businesses to gain insights into what it is like to work in a field of their interest. Throughout the program, students received mentorship from industry professionals to seek academic and professional advice. Several students had the opportunity to attend local business events to begin developing their professional networks. The internships were the most valuable part of the program for many students including JA Fellow Erick Ulloa.
“My favorite part of JA was when we had our internships and the experience we gained from it. We got to go into the real-world and experience how it is firsthand,” said Ulloa. “I worked at a gym where I was put in customer service and as an assistant coach. I was able to network with many of the other coaches there and really get the best out of the experience.”
Over a dozen local businesses served as internship site hosts to offer students the opportunity to gain tangible work experience. Fundraising at the YMCA, organizing clean-up events at I Love A Clean San Diego, and providing administrative support at Just In Time are a few examples of internship opportunities available to the students.
Two Fellows students interning at a YMCA community event
JA Fellows Instructor Adam Armas has seen the impact of providing social capital and relevant work-based learning opportunities. It enables students to build the connection between lessons learned in the classroom and the real-world.
“In the classroom, we learned a lot [and] we grew a lot, but a lot of times it didn’t feel real until they heard real-life stories and went to their internships to see what we talked about in action. I think that’s what makes the biggest difference in our program and distinguishes us from the normal day classroom – it’s that there is real-life practice,” said Armas.
Impact Through Collaborative Efforts
Armas additionally expressed his appreciation for the trust of the school administrators, volunteers, and donors for the success of the pilot program and students.
The JA Fellows program is truly the result of collaborative efforts from the tenacity of the students to the dedication of volunteers and educators to the support of community and corporate partners including Reality Changers, Cox Communications, and Life Science Cares San Diego. Through these powerful collaborations, JA Fellows empowers these students to recognize opportunities in their local community and economy and to achieve future success.
“We’re proud of this program. We are really hoping to see it grow. We cannot thank Junior Achievement enough,” said Lincoln High Co-Principal Melissa Adugelo. “This is just the first of many. And, [the people] that have seen the talent that we have and continue to give us the opportunities to show them that there’s a world beyond the classroom and a world beyond the classroom that really values them, that’s the best message they can receive.”