Anthony Gianaras is an associate principal at East High School and Madeline Cano is East’s community school coordinator. But on a recent Friday morning, they seemed more like proud parents than educators as they paid a visit to a new work opportunity for Scarlet students.
Gianaras and Cano were at the corporate headquarters of the EMC Insurance Companies in downtown Des Moines, where five East students – three Class of ’22 grads and two rising seniors – were taking part in a new partnership between the school and the company to provide high school students with greater exposure to the business world and career opportunities, including internships.
EMC, which was founded in Iowa in 1911, typically extended internships only to college students after their sophomore year. But, as the company reimagined their footprint in the community, and how to be more engaged, local high schools entered into the conversation.
“I started this project with Anthony (Gianaras) in October of 2020, brainstorming ideas on how we could get involved at East High School,” said Floyd Perrine, a talent acquisition specialist at EMC. “We laid out a plan to figure out a way to help provide those same opportunities to East High School students that would benefit their ability to gain that same experience and help them see what EMC would be like as well.”
“The EMC partnership started back in 2020 when building leaders within both East and EMC came together to look for opportunities to invest in the futures of high school students through meaningful mentorships and career pathways workshops,” explained Madeline Cano, East’s community school coordinator. “The program launched during the 2021-2022 school year with a monthly career workshop at East. EMC department leaders visited with 30-40 East juniors and seniors each month to share their work expertise and mentor students interested in those specific fields. In May 2022, EMC implemented their East internship program which provided five full-time, paid internship opportunities for the Summer of 2022. The internship allows recent East graduates and rising seniors to gain real work experience and also provides a tuition stipend for those pursuing higher education.”
The first five East/EMC interns are:
- Farhan Ahmed (Class of 2022)
- Camila Olivares (Class of 2023)
- Jessica Perez (Class of 2022)
- Mason Sackpraseuth (Class of 2022)
- Donald Vaughn (Class of 2023).
For as proud as Gianaras and Cano were for their students, the students were equally excited and thankful for the new opportunity.
“It’s been amazing learning about the job, meeting new people and creating meaningful relationships,” said Farhan Ahmed. “It has not only shaped my plans for the future, it has almost changed them completely. At first, I had plans of being a computer science major and that means that I would be staring at computer screens for long periods of time. The job I’m doing right now is the exact opposite of that as I’ve found myself dealing with more computer hardware then computer software. All of a sudden, I found myself loving this side of computers more than I thought possible. That is the biggest thing this experience has done for me- opened my eyes to more possibilities.”
Donald Vaughn noted the climate at EMC welcoming younger interns: “I believe the thing I most enjoy about the experience is definitely the environment of EMC, it’s like everyone there has such a positive aura and it really makes you like coming to work. It’s literally from all employees, whether it’s a supervisor or a random employee with a different position all the way to the CEO, who I’ve had the pleasure of meeting.”
“I enjoy seeing the work done. After seeing mountains of papers it’s very fun sorting them, organizing them, and packing them off,” added Jessica Perez. “I wanted to take this opportunity to see what it was like working in an insurance office and they didn’t disappoint. It’s very fun going into work every day. Sometimes I forget I actually get paid for doing the things I do. I took this opportunity because I wanted to challenge myself and to try something out of my comfort zone.”
Mason Sackpraseuth found the internship went hand-in-hand with his interest in technology: “I found it a good opportunity to get experience in the tech field. It’s usually hard to get jobs in tech without experience, so getting a chance like this would help me get ahead of others.”
“It’s given me a taste of what it’s like to have a job out in the real world instead of having to work someplace getting a minimum wage,” added Camila Olivares. “Because I have the experience of working here, if I decide to work at EMC after I finish high school I have the opportunity to go back and work here and work my way up to the top!”
On this particular Friday morning, Farhan and Mason were at work in the IT Support office. They were part of the team of EMC employees who make sure the company’s hardware and software are in top working order to serve their staff, agents, and customers. Meanwhile, up a couple of floors, Camila and Jessica were at their desks as policy support associates. They work with the company’s underwriting and claims team to help make sure the end users of their insurance policies have the resources and information they need.
Perrine pointed out that his colleagues working with the East interns were glad to see the energy and enthusiasm the students brought to their work at EMC.
“This effort helps us bridge the gap of understanding more about business culture, career opportunities in insurance, but more importantly, providing a glimpse of what a true community/company partnership can look like,” added Shakir Jones, the talent acquisition manager at EMC. “This is just the beginning of how initiatives such as this can truly evolve to solve some of the growing problems within the U.S.”
This new partnership between East and EMC is providing the student-interns with real life experiences that could impact their interests moving forward, a better understanding of business culture, networking with people in business who can provide insight and opportunity, and a chance to further consider their education and career plans for life after high school
As Cano noted: “EMC and East are excited to continue this partnership for the 2022-23 school year and create new opportunities for future Scarlet success stories.”