Nineteen college students made the best of a challenging situation this summer, using the cancellation of internships due to the global pandemic as an opportunity to make a difference.
The students were participants in the Jordan & Cara Odo Scholarship Foundation Virtual Summer Internship Program – a five-week online program designed to give students firsthand career experience during the pandemic.
“We noticed that businesses were cancelling their summer internship programs, leaving many students without opportunities this summer,” said Jordan Odo, the Foundation’s president. “The Virtual Summer Internship Program provides students with the practical experience they need while developing them into young leaders who make an impact in their community.”
J. J. Bernardo, a junior at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, decided to apply for the program due to the cancellation of his study abroad experience to Korea. “I was stuck at home, scrambling to find ways to pursue my professional development,” said Bernardo, a triple business major. “Being that this was a one-of-a-kind internship experience that was virtual, I applied knowing that I’d be able to benefit from it after having many plans postponed due to COVID-19.”
Bernardo and his colleagues collaborated over Zoom and other virtual online platforms. “These tools have allowed me to connect with and learn from people from across the state and country, which is something I am grateful for,” said Bernardo.
Today, many technology companies rely on these online platforms to collaborate on projects. Aaron Kagawa, one of twelve working professionals who volunteered to serve as a mentor for the program, works for San Francisco-based Kentik and believes this internship program is a great introduction for students into what it’s like to work remotely.
Kagawa and his fellow mentors provide the students with practical advice and instruction in the areas of finance, marketing, human resources, technology, and law while assisting with the students’ community-based projects.
The Foundation has received an outpouring of support from the business community. In addition to the mentors, a dozen recruiters helped students sharpen their interviewing and job preparation skills. Many other professionals have dropped into virtual meetings or “Office Hour” events to speak with the students about different career paths and industries, leadership values, and community issues.
The students presented their ideas on July 18th to a panel of business and government leaders, who provided real-time feedback and advice on the students’ projects. “I was truly inspired by all of their stories and the work all the students put into their projects,” said Jason Chang, President of The Queen’s Medical Center. Chang, who served as one of the judges, acknowledged that it’s an unprecedented time and applauded the students’ effort to help the community.
Due to the generous contributions of The Queen’s Health Systems, First Insurance Company of Hawaii, and American Savings Bank, all 19 students participating in the program will receive a scholarship to continue pursuing their dreams.
For recent Kamehameha Schools graduate, Teiana Gonsalves, the internship program has proved to be worthwhile. “This program has really broadened the scope of my learning experience.” Gonsalves, who is attending Stanford University in the fall, says she’s grown tremendously as a reader, writer, speaker, teammate, thinker and change maker. “This summer opportunity has allowed me to envision myself as a contributor to a larger community and think critically on ways to effectuate genuine change.”