The EC STARS program, in partnership with West Contra Costa Unified School District’s Summer Pathways Program, provides El Cerrito High School students with an opportunity to intern in various City departments. One of this year’s STARS has written this story about the program.
“My name is Michelle Li, and this summer I was a part of the EC STARS program, working in the Finance Department and the City Manager’s Office. There were five other interns: Vonne Ng Bader (Fire), Anna Madrid (Recreation), Jessenia Ponce (Public Works), Aaradhya Poudyal (IT), and Jullisa Rodriguez (Police). Coming into the internship, I had no idea what local government was, nor the time-consuming activities it consisted of.
The experience allowed me to look at my hometown from a completely different perspective. My co-interns and I not only learned about the amount of work a City must put in, we experienced it firsthand. For example, to prepare for the 4th of July Festival, I mailed 540 letters to residents regarding road closures; Anna helped vendors set up booths and diligently sliced tomatoes for three hours straight, prior to the event; and Jessenia explained the importance of recycling to anyone who asked. I had exciting days of working on business licenses, creating a list of legislative priorities, and interviewing department heads, but we all had our exhilarating moments. Jullissa, in Police, was tasked with finding architects and construction dates for police department buildings in other counties, and she also occasionally went on rides with officers. One time she even saw a car crash into a CVS! Although Aaradhya and Vonne were not as involved in outdoor activities, they played a big part in making sure the City ran smoothly. Aaradhya worked on automation and systems management and learned about electronics, while Vonne created a new emergency bag and plan for fires and other natural disasters.
There was a diverse range of tasks, like answering emails or recycling questions; setting up new phones and computers; and teaching the elderly how to use electronic devices—but, in all cases, our work involved helping the City. These experiences were made possible by the program mentors. I realized that our City is great, not only because the people who work within it are hard working and capable, but because everyone truly cares for the City and its residents. The experiences we gained cannot be described by mere words. This and the connections we built are irreplaceable to us, and we are thankful to have been able to participate. “