High school student accelerates professional goals with five work experiences

IMG_0982From career and technical education courses at her high school to volunteering at her church’s parish office, Sahara Estrada Hernandez has always been committed to her own professional development and contributing to her community.

When she started looking for employment opportunities at the age of 16, Sahara went to her local library for resources. It was there she saw a flyer for CONNECT2Careers and learned about the program.

In November 2015, Sahara was invited to the training and hiring event for the School Break Externship program. She was nervous about attending the event because it was her first time meeting and interviewing with employers. After participating in the résumé, elevator pitches and practicing interview workshops at the event Sahara told us she started to feel more confident in her ability to interview with employers.

Sahara was accepted to the program. She was selected to extern at the Outlets at the Border in San Ysidro during winter break and at Jewish Family Service of San Diego during spring break. These experiences provided her with the ability to try out careers in two very different industries. Sahara shared that these experiences provided “great exposure to learn how it would be to work at a nonprofit and in the retail industry.”

With the skills she developed during the externship program, Sahara became more confident about her chances of getting hired in the future. In the summer of 2016, she began working as a Youth Outreach Team Member for the Youth Engaging Southeast (YES) San Diego program through the Jacobs Center for Neighborhood Innovation. In this role, she focused on identifying the needs of the people living in the Diamond District by collecting surveys to provide feedback about future neighborhood developments.

Following the YES program, she applied for the LiveWell San Diego County Internship program. Sahara was placed at the Human and Health Services Agency (HHSA) in Lemon Grove. During this experience, she applied her retail customer service experience to help clients navigate services inside the HHSA office, and she built up her communication skills by greeting new clients as they came in to the office.

At the conclusion of her HHSA internship, Sahara began applying for her next opportunity. She found out about an opportunity to serve in the CONNECT2Careers office as a Peer Job Coach, applied to the position, and was offered the role. Sahara often tells us how happy she is to be able to give back to the program that’s helped her find so many career opportunities. She enjoys assisting other participants during their job search process just as she was helped when joining the program.