Rebecca is a sixteen-year old girl with a bright presence and an inspiring story: she went from visiting Pajama Program’s NYC Reading Center with her group home to becoming the first summer teen intern. By the end of the summer, Rebecca was an integral part of the team:
“I didn’t feel like I was an intern; I felt like I was in a second home.”
n her initial visits to the Reading Center, Rebecca was thrilled about her experience. As an avid reader (her favorite books are horror novels or funny comics—and the Twilight series, of course), she was excited to read stories and then receive a book that she hadn’t read yet. One of the books Rebecca brought home from the Reading Center was a Bobby Brown book on makeup, which fueled her passion for doing makeup: she believes in the art of makeup to help girls feel empowered and glamorous and is considering studying cosmetology after high school.
Moreover, she was impressed by the guests that the staff brought in for the teens to meet, including professional photographers, fashion designers, and even a dance group that taught them some tap dance moves. “I was really happy to see other people and hear their experiences. I liked to ask them questions. I wanted to know what their work life was like,” Rebecca said.
Rebecca was looking for a summer job, but unfortunately she had not landed anything. “I was sad,” she explained. “I thought I was just going to have to sit at home and watch TV this summer.” She was in for a surprise, though: knowing that Rebecca had enjoyed the Reading Center so much, the heads of her group home called the staff at Pajama Program to ask if she could intern for the summer. How did Rebecca feel when she found out they said yes? “Oh my God, I was so happy,” Rebecca laughed.
While Rebecca was excited to start her position, she was also a little nervous—she was going to present how to fold pajamas to a room full of visiting professionals from corporations like Apple. Not only did Rebecca become a pajama folding master, she also realized that she really enjoyed explaining things. The visitors told her she was a great teacher. “I felt smart—I was teaching business people. I really felt confident,” she said.
Rebecca helped with everything at the Reading Center, from folding pajamas and shelving books to sharing stories with the children and distributing snacks. She also decided to learn how to use the DSLR camera to photograph the children and volunteers. “I like taking a picture and seeing them learning. I try to capture a moment. You get to know kids and learn more about children’s psychology. I love watching kids learn new things,” she explained. Chrissie Martinez, the Program Manager, was impressed by the initiative Rebecca showed and by her positivity: “Everybody just describes her as sunshine,” she said.
Now that the summer has ended, Rebecca’s internship is over, but she is looking forward to staying involved. “I’m grateful for this experience. This has taught me about keeping an open mind about trying everything and seeing how you like it…I had so much fun and I learned cool skills I didn’t know I would enjoy. Instead of being at home all day this summer, I am like, ‘Wow, I did something good and positive.’ It’s a good thing to help out the community and kids,” she reflected.