It’s mid-June in New Orleans, and on the 11th floor of a mid-rise building in downtown, 65 high school students shift nervously in their chairs. One by one, Ryan Hitchens, an educator-turned-program manager, calls the teenagers—many dressed in suits and ties, dresses and pumps—to the front of the room to receive their summer internship offer letters. They erupt into a chorus of snaps to commend one another after each placement is announced:
A Fortune 500 energy company. A tech startup. A construction firm.
“Congratulations, everybody,” Hitchens tells the students before attempting to soothe the jitters that can visit anyone who is about to start a new job. “There are many of you who are like ‘now what?’ ”
He tells them to create a transportation plan for getting to their job and draft an introductory email to their future supervisor.
Teaching these New Orleans public school students how to function in a professional environment is exactly the point of YouthForce Nola, a program aimed at increasing the number of New Orleans youth entering expanding career fields in the city.
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