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Internships get students' feet wet

Youthful job-seekers find fast track to obtaining real work experience.

July 17, 2013|By Sara Cardine
  • La Cañada Flintridge Chamber of Commerce summer intern Ben Blanco, 16, of La Canada Flintridge, works at City Hall in La Cañada Flintridge on Tuesday, July 16, 2013. Blanco will work the paid internship for six weeks.
La Cañada Flintridge Chamber of Commerce summer… (Raul Roa / Staff…)

Anyone who's tried to get a job right out of high school or college has likely encountered a frustrating Catch 22 — no one will hire you without work experience, but you can't get work experience until someone hires you. And so grads head to the Verizon store or the mall, hoping a few months as a cashier or manager will propel them into the serious world of work.

La Cañada High School senior Marne Fairhurst and junior Ben Blanco will likely be spared that cruel fate. They are two of six students spending the summer working at area businesses, thanks to a six-week internship program run through the La Cañada Flintridge Chamber of Commerce.

Fairhurst and Blanco are learning the finer points of marketing and publicity, research and public policy as paid interns for the Student Planning Services and La Cañada Flintridge City Hall, respectively.

"It's like a summer job, but you can do so much more than working in a restaurant or a store," says Fairhurst, who works in the education counseling firm's Pasadena and La Cañada offices. "It's a great opportunity to get your feet wet in the real world."

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Also participating in this year's program are local students Dan Cohen, Brian Kim, Justin Cohen and Jonathan Connelly, who are working at USC Verdugo Hills Hospital, Allen Lund Co., YMCA of the Foothills and Citizens Business Bank, respectively.

This collaboration offers businesses deeper community engagement and gives students meaningful work experience, says Chamber President Pat Anderson. Interns also receive independent study credits and $1,200 scholarships, with another $800 awarded to the top intern.

"It's an outstanding program," Anderson says. "Our interns enjoy it, the employers really appreciate it and we've had several parents tell us it's the best thing their child's done".

This year's competition to get into the program was stiff, and only 11 were chosen for final interviews, says Anderson. They were questioned by employers in a round-robin style and whittled down to six. Businesses reached consensus about who would go where.

For Peter Castro, a public safety coordinator for the city of La Cañada Flintridge and this year's internship supervisor, the decision was easy — 16-year-old Blanco, who'd participated in the YMCA's Youth and Government program, was a clear standout.

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