08 Feb Launchpad for Promising Futures: The POWER Youth Employment Initiative
Davidson County residents age 16-19 have a unique opportunity to gain work experience and skills relevant to their interests in a supportive environment — all while earning a paycheck. Applications are now being accepted for high school internships through the POWER Youth Employment Initiative, funded by the Metropolitan Action Commission and administered by Goodwill Industries of Middle Tennessee. Participants, who are placed with local employers, receive $14 per hour as well as targeted job coaching from their employer supervisor and an employment coach from Goodwill. Positions begin the first week of June and end in mid-July. The program, formerly known as Opportunity Now, has provided dozens of young people with the inspiration, knowledge and experience needed to reach their goals and launch careers.
Following are the stories of two participants:
THE ASPIRING ENGINEER: BOLU ADEMOLA
Boluwatife Ademola, called Bolu by his friends, was born in Nigeria, but his family emigrated to the Nashville area in 2015 in search of greater opportunities. Bolu’s dream is to become a mechanical engineer.
In 2019, the Antioch High School student participated in an Opportunity Now summer internship with a local electrical company. He had a good experience, so he decided to apply for another internship during the summer of 2021 before beginning college at Middle Tennessee State University.
This time, Bolu was placed at a wastewater treatment plant operated by Metro Water Services. From the first day, Bolu said the internship turned out to be everything he could have hoped for — and more.
Bolu’s supervisor Aaron Thomas, a civil engineer, began by showing him around the plant. But soon, he was teaching Bolu about various aspects of engineering and giving him projects to work on, including — to Bolu’s surprise — long calculations in fluid mechanics.
“Fluid mechanics was literally the subject of one of the college classes I was going to be taking in the fall, so I knew it would benefit me,” he said.
Bolu’s favorite experience of the internship was being allowed to participate in a laser alignment class alongside employees.
“When my Goodwill employment coach came over later to check on my progress, I told her it didn’t even feel like work, I enjoyed it so much. They say if you find a job that you love you will never work a day in your life, and I found it,” he said.
Bolu is now in his second semester at MTSU. He said having the opportunity to work under a civil engineer during his internship is helping him in his studies and will benefit his resume when he begins looking for work as an engineer.
“The internship was a great experience,” he said.
THE COMMUNICATOR: REENA LEWIS
Having just completed high school, Reena Lewis’ goal for the summer of 2021 was to gain as many skills as possible before attending Nashville State University that autumn.
“Because I graduated during the pandemic, I felt like I had missed out on some key things I needed to know,” she explained. “But I knew I was going to college and wanted to be more self-sufficient.”
To gain that experience, Reena applied for an Opportunity Now summer internship. Because she had plans to study Communications in college, Reena was placed with the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce. She was assigned numerous administrative duties, including assisting chamber members by phone and in person, attending meetings and events, organizing and retrieving information using the organization’s software and much more.
At first, Reena felt overwhelmed by the pace and complexity of her role, but rather than give up, she continued to ask questions and advocate for her needs. As the summer progressed, Reena not only met the challenges of her role, she exceeded expectations.
“I learned so many things — from using Word to sending formal emails to handling member relations — all kinds of stuff I would not have known if I’d gone straight to college without any type of push,” she said.
Reena is now in her second semester at Nashville State, majoring in Visual Communications of Multimedia Design. She says the internship has helped her adjust to college, and she feels confident it will pay dividends when she enters the workforce:
“My experience in the program was very diverse and fulfilling. I doubted myself at first, but I persevered and I couldn’t be more thankful. It made me feel more powerful.”