A thousand teenagers in Dallas got their first taste of interviewing for jobs over the weekend, as part of the mayor's intern fellows program. It puts young people in businesses across Dallas for a couple of months each summer.
Seventeen-year-old Manuel Escobedo got 10 minutes to sell himself to a panel of interviewers from the City of Dallas' aviation department. The questions came fast.
"The summer intern that we’re looking for in aviation has to do with social media. How would you increase the number of followers?" asked Heather Estrada.
Manuel thought for a second. "For my AP U.S. History and AP English class, they made us make a Twitter page,” he said. He gave examples of his work in advertising, marketing, and social media.
The high school junior was nervous, but held it together well, especially when he mentioned that he’d researched this job before his interview.
“So you know a little bit about the Department of Aviation already?" said Rozalind Dickerson. Manuel said he had looked on the city of Dallas website. "That’s a good thing, nice to know,” she said.
Manuel was one of more than 1,000 high schoolers from Dallas looking for a summer internship through the mayor’s intern fellows program. Local employers came to a ballroom at the Hyatt Regency to find summer interns—each offered to teach the teenagers a little about business and pay them at least $9 an hour.
Last summer, Manuel was an intern at The Family Place, a domestic violence shelter. He loved the feeling of helping others, getting work experience, and earning good money.
“I was making close if not more than what my dad makes," he said. "I spent a little on myself, but the rest I used for my parents to help with bills and stuff.”
Edward Deleon, a sophomore grader at Hillcrest High School, has been preparing for the job fair for a while. It was well worth the effort.
“I actually got a job offer for my first interview," he said. "I was surprised. It’s my first job. My first job at a law firm.”
Edward hopes to be a civil rights attorney or a public defender someday.
Some of the non-profits will be able to pay the kids a salary through the help of richer firms. The investment firm Highland Capital Management, for example, is a sponsor. Still, there aren’t quite enough jobs to go around.
Two-thirds of these kids will have to look for something else to do this summer. Tiandria McClure tried for one of the summer internships last year, but didn’t get an offer.
“Failure is very hard, and it's a lot of pressure on you," she said. "You have to take that in."
Tiandria says she learned a lot from her interviews last time, and is ready to shine this year.
“I’m wearing a suit, black suit, pearls, and black loafers. Last year I wasn't so comfortable, I was wearing heels," she said. "Now, I’m comfortable and I have a lot of confidence."
She also has 20 copies of her resume and has practiced answering questions about her skills and qualifications.
AT&T, a major Dallas employer, has taken teenage summer interns for the last eight years.
“They’re novices, and they need to be molded," said Angela Ross, vice president of external affairs at AT&T. She said she loves this program, even if managing the teens is a lot of work.
She says some interns have come back to work for AT&T after they’ve gone to college—even more incentive for these teens to get their foot in the door.