Year Up is a US-based national nonprofit organization with the mission of bridging the Opportunity Gap by ensuring that young adults gain the skills, experiences, and support they need to reach their true potential.
We at PalTechUS wanted to highlight an excellent model of an effective internship program in the US to show our audience in Palestine how an effective internship models can change lives. We recently had the privilege of interviewing Ana Bonilla, a graduate of Year Up, to talk about her experience with Year Up’s training and internship programs.
My questions are in bold, and her responses follow.
What made you decide to join Year Up?
Before I joined Year Up, I was at a job that I really loved, but I had no prior knowledge going into the job, so I didn’t know much about Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and other programs like that. It had been so long since I had learned about these programs in high school and college, and I felt like I needed some training to really do my job well. My managers were super nice, and they were always willing to teach me and to train me, but they didn’t give me the training I really needed, so I would often have to go and look these things up on my own.
Then, a friend of mine that was in the Year Up program told me all about it. I sat on it for a while, not sure about whether I wanted to do it, but then we lost someone on our team, so I ended up having to do four positions in one. I didn’t understand what this person who had left was doing, and I couldn’t do something that I didn’t know how to do. So, I looked at the idea of joining Year Up again, and I thought to myself “maybe I should give it a shot, maybe it will help me out”. I went for it! I did the whole interview process, which was hard, and I got in.
Could you describe your internship experience with Year Up?
Yeah, so right now I’m interning with a company called memoryBlue, which is one of 250 leading companies that partner with Year Up. So far, my experience has gone well! I don’t feel like I’m an intern, I feel like I’m an actual employee. They treat me well, and they’re always willing to answer all my questions. I feel like the things that Year Up taught me have allowed me to do well.
A great thing about Year Up is that they don’t hang you out to dry if you don’t get the opportunity to continue with the company, they match you up with in an employed position. They make sure to find something for you, even after you graduate. Around 80% of Year Up graduates get “converted” and can get a paid position with the company after their internship though, so that’s not even a problem for most people.
Tell me about Year Up’s “high support, high expectations” model.
What Year Up likes to emphasize a lot is that “a closed mouth doesn’t get fed”. So, if you sit back and don’t say what you need help on or what you’re struggling with, there’s no way for them to know what’s going on and they can’t help you.
Year Up sets high standards for all their students because ultimately you don’t know if you’re going to work somewhere with high standards or in a more relaxed environment. So, we had to wear a suit and a tie every day, even when we were virtual, so that when we did go out to our internships, we would learn the discipline and wear a suit and tie every day. Year Up’s goal is for you to stand out wherever you’re going. If you end up placed somewhere casual and wear a suit and tie every day for two weeks, you’ll stand out compared to everyone else.
What’s something Year Up does that you think is amazing?
One of the things they do that’s great is their certification program. So, for example, because I was in sales, I was able to get my Microsoft certification. Those who are going into IT can get their compTIA certification. And you don’t have to pay for these things, they’re all free for you. You’re also given a stipend. So, if you meet your expectations for the week, they’ll give you $100 dollars for that week. When you do your internship phase, that’s increased to $150 a week. I don’t know of any other organizations that are willing to support their students like that,
We at PalTechUS would like to thank Ana for sharing her story with us. Her experience with Year Up demonstrates that effective training programs combined with strategic partnerships with leading companies can help bridge the Opportunity Divide and give any young adult the opportunity to reach their full potential. While we at PalTechUS applaud this work, we also recognize the need to bring these opportunities to young adults outside of the United States, especially in Palestine. We will not stop our work until our mission of ensuring equal opportunity for all young adults in Palestine is met.
Please visit www.paltechus.org to learn how we create more and better STEM jobs for Palestinian and Arab youth across the MENA region. Also, we would love to hear from you directly at email@example.com