Lessons in Life

As a child, Phoenix Kim (12) didn’t watch the Super Bowl to watch the Super Bowl.

He had no interest in football. He didn’t care about the game, the teams or the score. It was the commercials that caught his attention.

“I would only look for the ads,” Kim said. “As I got older, I learned, ‘Oh, they’re not just random little videos. They actually serve a purpose for a larger business or company.’ That got me thinking about business.”

At TPHS, Kim took classes like Marketing and Advanced Business Management. He joined business-centered clubs like DECA.

But it was an opportunity to apply his interest to a real-world experience at a search engine optimization marketing agency called Grow and Convert that solidified his love for business and his plans to pursue it in the future — an opportunity in the form of an internship.

“I’ve always been interested in business and marketing. But doing this internship really added on to more reasons why I would be interested in this kind of stuff,” Kim said.

Kim isn’t alone. Across the TPHS campus, students are taking their passions for specific fields beyond the walls of a classroom to internships in the real world.

“In school, we mainly learn concepts that are more theoretical,” Carol Chen (11), an intern at Palomar Health who supports nurses and patients in the orthopedic acute unit, said. “In an internship, you really get to see how the topics you learn in school work out in real life.”

For many students, this experience helps establish their interests and paves a clearer path for their future careers.

“I wanted to get some experience with healthcare and see if it’s actually something I would be interested in because I know healthcare is a super big commitment,” Chen said.

But the opposite is also true: internships can help students identify what career paths they do not want to traverse.

“Sometimes, [internships] are a reality check of, ‘Holy cow, this sucks. I am not going to spend four years studying this in college,’” James Anthony, teacher of the Internship class at TPHS, said.

Internship is a CTE elective offered to students pursuing internships off campus. According to Anthony, the opportunities are endless.

“I’ve got kids at real estate brokers and in labs and at these companies doing research that is kind of mind blowing. Stuff that I sure don’t know how to do,” Anthony said.

This breadth of possibility is one of the main benefits of pursuing an internship, according to Sara Zhao (11), an intern at a San Diego State University linguistics lab that develops tests for bilingual Chinese- English speakers with aphasia, a language disorder that impairs one’s ability to understand or express speech.

“There are a fixed number of classes that are offered in high school, but your internship could really be about anything,” Zhao said.

This is the case for Eric Grun (12), who has a passion for computer programming. As a programming intern for a dermatopathologist’s lab, Grun develops machine learning models for the lab’s research in melanoma skin cancers.

“What I’ve been doing at the lab has taught me more in this niche area of machine learning,” Grun said. “It opened me up to the biomedical side of things and how to apply machine learning to places where to apply machine learning to places where it can really make an impact.”

While internships help students gain skills in specific fields, they also provide valuable life experiences — things that only come through working in real-world environments, according to Anthony.

“We can do projects, we can do simulations, we can do contests. It’s great, but it’s not real,” Anthony said. “There’s nobody lighting you up if you come in late. There’s nobody telling you that the way you’re dressed at school ain’t going to cut it in my workplace.”

Ella Emberger (12), an intern at a State Farm Insurance firm in Solana Beach, said her internship has given her a better grasp on what a nine-to-five job is like.

“The first customer meeting we sat in on … it was kind of like, ‘Oh, this is the real deal,’” Emberger said.

Just like actual jobs, internships provide unexpected opportunities for interns to step out of their comfort zones and grow as people.

For Sofia Kantor (12), who interns at the same firm as Emberger, this came in the form of planning an event for local business owners.

“At the event, my boss had me say a little speech in front of like 40 business owners in the community,” Kantor said. “I was pretty scared, but I think that was one of the greatest takeaways, just being able to share my passion with these really cool people.”

Oftentimes, these experiences can be daunting. But according to Nataly Medina (12), who interns at a small, home-based baking business called Dream Delicacies, overcoming this fear is crucial.

“I feel like it’s so scary, but you really have to put yourself out there,” Medina said. “Even if you don’t want to, you’re going to have to do it one day. Doing it now just helps a lot.”

Photos by Anna Opalsky/Falconer

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