This summer 58 high school students from San Francisco, the Peninsula and Marin County participated in JFCS’ YouthFirst six-week internship program. They were placed in all kinds of offices—from a private dentist practice to an engineering firm—as well as at JFCS itself. The program recently concluded with all teens agreeing that it was a fantastic experience.
Courting a Career
Three years ago as a rising sophomore, Steve Dvorkin was a summer intern at JFCS where he performed administrative and organizational office tasks. The experience was so positive that the 18-year-old returned again this summer. This time he was assigned to the ACCESS Center at San Francisco Superior Court, which provides free legal information to those representing themselves in civil court. In addition to administrative work, Dvorkin worked directly with customers, educating them how to complete all the necessary forms.
Intern Steve Dvorkin helped people who represent themselves in in civil court through ACCESS Center at SF Superior Court
“I learned a great deal about how the court functions, what services are available to the public, and was even able to sit in on actual court proceedings. I know that all the tasks I did there, whether big or small, were really important and helped the court function better,” said Dvorkin, a graduate of the French American International School who will attend the University of Chicago in the fall.
Dvorkin’s participation in JFCS’s YouthFirst internship program has had a profound effect on his life. After his first internship he stayed on as a volunteer, helping prepare senior immigrants for their citizenship interviews. He also served on JFCS’ Teen Advisory Board.
“My summer internship opened the door to a much longer lasting relationship with JFCS, and allowed me to find new ways to make a meaningful impact on my community,” he remarked.
Nonprofits, Companies, and JFCS All Received Interns
This was the first year that Miriam Markowitz, JFCS’ Director of Nutrition Programs and Director of Canine Therapy Program, mentored an intern. She believes her intern, Rebecca Cormack, was a perfect fit, and reported that the clients “raved about her.” Cormack was also pleased with the placement. Markowitz, a social worker, was a caring mentor who tried to expose the teen to a variety of experiences.
“Because our Nutrition and Canine Therapy programs work closely with other JFCS programs like Adult Services, Holiday Outreach, and Seniors At Home, I was able to bring Rebecca into several different projects and expose her to different issues that we help people address at JFCS. The variety of work kept her engaged,” Markowitz said. In addition to performing administrative tasks, Cormack learned a lot about event planning.
JFCS’ Director of YouthFirst Loal Isaacs runs the summer internship program along with his YouthFirst Team. According to Isaacs, the students worked 20 hours per week at their jobs, receiving San Francisco’s minimum wage. Each Monday the group participated in professional development workshops where guest speakers taught them professional and personal life skills such as how to write a resume, work/school/life balance, effective communication, and how to dress on the job.
“They really make this program far more valuable than just a summer job,” noted Dvorkin.
For this reason, the summer internship program is highly competitive. “We receive twice as many applications as we have spots available,” Isaacs said.
“When I started on my summer job search, JFCS was one of the first places I looked,” said Avidan Novogrodsky-Godt, who worked with artist Aimee Golant at Metal Art Judaica.
“What I liked best about this summer internship was that I learned about being a working artist and about running a business,” said the 16-year-old, who attends Ruth Asawa San Francisco School of the Arts.
He performed a wide variety of tasks—from cutting tags for jewelry, to helping with art shows and transferring LinkedIn contacts. He also made Golant a marketing film for her business.
The summer internship program has just ended, but Novogrodsky-Godt said he would like to continue to work or volunteer at JFCS. “I have had a really positive experience, and I think the work JFCS does to serve the community is really important.”
Building on the Teens’ Current Skills
Isaacs stresses that a great deal of consideration goes into matching teens to placements where they can thrive.
As a front desk receptionist, Jane Bakhter, 15, worked in JFCS’ Emigre Services Department and helped clients of all backgrounds secure help from JFCS. “My job required a lot of communication with Russian-speaking clients. My fluency in the language and my understanding of the culture was extremely instrumental throughout my internship,” Bakhter said.
Bakhter was personally familiar with JFCS because the organization had helped her own family settle in San Francisco when they arrived from Russia years ago, and her great-grandmother still receives senior services through JFCS’ L’Chaim Adult Day Care program.
“What I really loved about my summer internship was that I was able to meet a lot of different people with different backgrounds. It was fascinating to listen to their migration stories, and was very rewarding for me to be able to help them with their questions and solve some problems,” said Bakhter, a student at Lowell High School in San Francisco.
“I would definitely recommend this internship program to all high school students. It is an amazing opportunity that has exposed me to careers that I may be interested in,” she said.
To learn more about JFCS’ year-round programs for teens in your area, contact Linda Karlin, Director of YouthFirst, at LindaK@jfcs.org.