Trading swimsuits for suits: Students say giving up their summers for internships pays off

Trading swimsuits for suits: Students say giving up their summers for internships pays off
(Image: Cyrus Maunakea)
(Image: Cyrus Maunakea)

By Pono Suganuma
HNN Summer Intern

With many Hawaii students returning home from college for the summer, it's time to spread their wings and take what they've learned in the classroom out into the real world.

That means some young adults are trading in their beach time for the opportunity to prepare for their future through internships.

Justin Bac is a paid intern in the financial department of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at Fort Shafter. Bac said he was compelled to apply for the position because he wanted to learn more about his chosen major in the hopes of turning it into a career.

"I applied for an internship because I wanted to get ahead for my future and put my foot through the door to be prepared and ready for the outside world after I graduate," Bac said.

An economics and finance student at Northern Arizona University, Bac said the on the job experience is a definite opportunity for a potential job in his field of study.

"I can only control how effective and hard I work, and the rest will work itself out," Bac said.

Bac knows that if he lands a job in this field, he could actually make a decent salary and work towards supporting himself and his future family.

Though Bac seems to have a cohesive career plan, other young adults are just discovering what sort of career they would like to pursue.

Cyrus Maunakea, who has never taken a marketing class before, is a marketing and fundraising intern at People Attentive to Children Hawaii. The University of Portland student applied for the internship because he wanted to learn more about the marketing industry. He got more than he bargained for.

"Just having this internship has really opened my eyes and helped me to figure out what I want to do in life," Maunakea said.

At PATCH, Maunakea helps to promote the organization's services by creating video content, working on the non-profit's website, drafting newsletters and more. He said his responsibility to create a wide array of content has introduced him to the various fields within marketing.

"So I thought, 'Hey this would be another opportunity to learn what kind of marketing I want to go into,'" said Maunakea, who will receive a small stipend upon completing his internship. "So thankfully at the internship I'm getting experience in a lot of different types of marketing."

Maunakea will begin marketing classes in the fall with a clearer idea of what career path to pursue. He credits his time at PATCH for helping him to determine his niche in the marketing world: digital and social media marketing.

Along with his gratitude for PATCH, Maunakea said he is thankful for a Kamehameha Schools program called Kapili Oihana that helped him to apply for the internship.

Kapili Oihana is a statewide college internship program that enables students to connect with companies in their field of interest.

Program coordinator and counselor Michel Arakaki said the program allows students to choose from a wide spectrum of industries like business, aina or land based programs, healthcare, engineering just to name a few.

"What we do is provide the bridge between education and the workforce," Arakaki said, "allowing students to build essential workforce skills, knowledge, and abilities to make sure they are competitive upon graduation."

In its 10th year, Kapili Oihana has grown to include more than 80 participating sites across the state. Arakaki said each participating site or company in the program is able to test drive the talent and mentor the next generation.

"It's a perfect opportunity to come home for the summer to begin to professionally network with local employers here," said Arakaki, who visits participants at their internship sites.

Along with completing the required 240 internship hours, program participants must fulfill project and cultural components. Arakaki said Kapili Oihana seeks to instill in interns the importance of cultural values like kuleana (responsibility) and imi naauao (to seek enlightenment).

"Being in Hawaii, we are connected to this culture that we have," Arakaki said. "So we emphasize with students the importance of incorporating Hawaiian values into their internships and the day to day work that they have."

Some Kapili Oihana students, like Maunakea, applied these cultural components when interacting with site supervisors and coworkers.

"The cultural component is there to help us examine how we can apply Hawaiian values at the workplace," Maunakea said.

Arakaki, who has worked with this organization for five years, recognizes the positive impact internships and internship programs like Kapili Oihana have on young adults. She said doing internships prepares students to build professional networks "so that when they are ready to come home and look for a job they are already well connected."

"From my perspective, it's been great to see how things have evolved and really positively impacted both sites and our interns," Arakaki said.

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