The Opportunity of a Lifetime
by Jennifer A. Tschirpke
Toward the end of my freshman year at Conifer High School, I was trying to decide where to work for the summer. I didn’t see a summer at McDonald’s, Taco Bell, or Wal-Mart as an enticing work experience. I knew that there were professional-level jobs out there, but where should I look?
In my case, the Denver Metro Chamber Foundation’s Youth At Work program and the Denver Bar Association Summer Intern Program provided me with the opportunity to work in a professional job and gain valuable work experience. I’ve always been interested in the art of arguing; therefore, I was thinking about a career in law. The Denver Bar Association let me work where I could learn about what it’s like to work in a law-related position.
Before we were introduced to our jobs, we underwent a week of vigorous training. Through training, we learned the importance of being on time, reliable and conscientious in the performance of our work. We also learned about proper business attire, correct office etiquette, how to deal with conflicts encountered at the office, useful interviewing skills and how to write a resume. Youth at Work taught us more than how to dress, fax and use business machines. It also taught us how to communicate, be more responsible and follow through with our commitments.
As part of my job at the Bar Association, I worked on the Colorado Bar Association’s membership dues and invoices before they were entered into the computer. When they told me one of my first jobs was to be the front-end processor for 14,000 dues statements, I was very uncertain of the work. The computer system set up for me included the system checks necessary to ensure the data was entered accurately. I also updated The Docket Index, opened and distributed the mail, coordinated the intern reception at the Governor’s Executive Residence, worked on a program called Assets, wrote a few Save the Lawyer letters, prepared announcements for publication in The Colorado Lawyer and created a single file of all ethics opinions from 1977 to present.
The law interns were given other opportunities to learn how the legal process works. As part of our internship, we got to tour the Colorado General Assembly, the Denver County and District Courts, the Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court. Some law interns actually worked at courthouses, while others got to observe court proceedings.
Why would I enjoy this? I could have been home, at the pool or the mall this summer. Well, how many high school students get their own office, telephone and computer? I was given challenging work that allowed me the opportunity to grow and learn. Some other things I liked were that I was treated like a responsible young adult, I learned some valuable work skills, and I was able to work in a real business setting.
I met a lot of really good-hearted and fascinating people while I was working at the Bar Association. Think back over your initial business experiences and about how those experience and how the people you worked with influenced you afterward. I didn’t know what that meant relative to building a professional network. Some of these people have provided me with networking opportunities. They also are wise, knowledgeable and have taught me a great deal. Oh, I could have stayed home this summer, but the experiences I gained and the network I created will prove invaluable as I move on in my professional life after school. Of course, I’ve also learned that the recommendations will be positive, the network supportive and the experience rewarding only if I do a good job. I’m learning that working hard, dedicating myself and fitting into a team aren’t simply concepts learned in school. They have a real place in the business world.
The law interns and I really appreciate the job opportunities provided to us this summer.
Since 1994, Youth at Work has provided over 900 participants with professional summer jobs. This year they matched over 250 students with internships of interest, which provided work experience and knowledge that each student can take with them as they progress through their lives. Call Dave Ells to host an intern next summer at (303) 824-5323.