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Lifting Youth to Achieve Dreams

Finding the first job out of college or technical school is tough. It can be a stressful time filled with complicated decisions like picking the right type of company and choosing the right first job.

There is also a lot of competition.  Internships can be a great way for students to determine whether a career or a company are the right fit. It also helps them gain real-world skills and experience to stand apart from their peers.

Internships for high school students can be hard to find. Luckily, for student Mai Vang, the STEP-UP Achieve program at AchieveMpls provides paid internships each year for 600 youth ages 16-21. More than 160 business in the area participate by providing jobs and mentoring for these young people. STEP-UP Achieve not only helps kids find internships, it also offers work-readiness courses to learn about the world of work.

Mai was lucky to have a sister, Kao Xue, a STEP-UP Achieve alumna, who suggested she join the program to explore careers.

Since Mai was 14 when she started, she did not have any work experience or training. Luckily, this is not a requirement to find an internship through STEP-UP Discover, the sister program of STEP-UP Achieve for younger students. She joined Teen Teamworks and worked with other teens to take care of several local parks.

For the next three summers, Mai gained a wide range of on-the-job experience through STEP-UP Achieve and explored different careers. She tried graphic design and then pursued other jobs, finally landing with the Mary Trondson State Farm® agency.

Mary's office helped Mai build her customer service skills. "I loved it," Mai says. "I feel more comfortable now interacting with customers over the phone, collecting payments, and setting appointments."

Mai also helped Mary's office build stronger relationships with Hmong clients by translating customers' needs and concerns. Mary shared, "Mai was a great asset to us during her time with State Farm. Customers really enjoyed working with her and asked for her often!"

These many different internship experiences led Mai to begin her journey at the University of Minnesota this fall. She plans to learn more about business and financial services.

"I would tell other teens to start young." Mai says, when asked what advice she would offer t other high school students. "I didn't know anything about the different jobs available to me. STEP-UP Achieve helped me build my resume and get the training I needed to help me on my way."