Motivated by a desire to give back to his family, high school student Rolando was looking for work experience and a paycheck to afford things for himself like clothes, shoes and fun experiences for his siblings. In his words, Rolando has done some ‘not so great things’ in the past and wanted to make up for it by giving back to his family members.

Rolando heard about CONNNECT2Career’s (C2C) School Break Externship program through his high school teacher. Students were encouraged to apply quickly since spaces were filling up fast. “As soon my teacher sent the link, I signed up,” says Rolando—this was the opportunity he’d been looking for.

Rolando was accepted into the program, which provides work-readiness training along with paid short-term work experiences during school breaks in winter and spring. One highlight was a training and hiring event that connected him to other young adults and the employers who were hiring externs. “I enjoyed it because I went out of my comfort zone and talked to a lot of people,” he explains. “I learned that I had similar interests as others since we all wanted to help people.”

Rolando was hired at the Fleet Science Center for his winter work experience where he helped a camp teacher complete building projects with young children during winter camp. The pre-externship training helped him feel prepared to succeed and he enjoyed the job because he “saw how kids were sharing and how creative they are.”

Rolando learned patience, how to react when the kids were not behaving and how to have conversations with young children. He expressed that working with the children at the Fleet Science Center was “much different from my home experience,” considering he has siblings that he helps care for at home as well.

For Rolando’s spring externship, he was hired by C2C’s This Way Ahead program. He spent his externship hours making phone calls to program applicants and asking follow-up questions to see if they were eligible for the program. “I learned how to re-word things to make it sound professional over the phone,” he says.

At the end of his externship, Rolando expressed his interest in getting a job with C2C and asked the team to keep him in mind for any job openings. Advocating for himself paid off as a peer job coach position became available soon after his externship ended and he was one of the first to hear. He nailed his interview and is now a proud member of the team once again. “I’m working, I’m actually working for the company that gave me the externship,” he says. “Instead of them sending me texts to help me find a job, I’m sending participants texts to help them.”

As a peer job coach, Rolando practices the skills he learned during his externships. For example, during his experience at the Fleet Science Center he learned how to ask questions and show his genuine interest in what the children had to say—a skill that comes in handy as he asks participants about their experiences and successes so that he can help them share those things on their resumes.

In addition to gaining work experience and a paycheck, Rolando shared a few other key things he learned. He learned about taxes and how they can take a big chunk out of a paycheck. He learned about being adaptable in different work environments. And, best of all, he gained “real world experience by getting up every day, going to school and then going to work afterward.” After high school, Rolando plans to go to school for counseling or business so that he can prepare to become a corrections officer.

“I’m grateful to everyone on the C2C team,” he says. “I’m thankful for the connections and being able to put things on my résumé. I asked for help with jobs and that is exactly what they did.”