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College and Career Pathways

Meet Two High School Seniors Making an Impact for Detroit Youth

Jayden (left) and Justin (right) are both seniors at Cass Tech High School and interns with the Skillman Foundation.


If you’re looking to make positive change in Detroit, there’s no better place to start than with the city’s young people. That’s why at the Skillman Foundation, Detroit’s youth are not only the center of our work, they are also a part of our team! Each year we have the privilege of hosting a group of interns from local high schools who work closely with Skillman staff on a variety of projects and initiatives.

We recently caught up with two of our high school seniors to talk about life as young people in Detroit, their experience as interns at Skillman, and what their plans are after graduation.

What are some of the biggest challenges that you think youth face in the city?

Justin: I think in terms of education, we’re given the short end of the stick. I’ve thought about this idea where students should get to take an exam to help determine what type of learner they are like a visual, practical, or systematic learner. That way teachers could know what type of learners are in their class and create lessons that make sense to them.

Jayden: I think the biggest challenge is resources in schools. Stuff like outdated textbooks and just a general lack of resources. I think we need to change that narrative.

What is your vision for the future of Detroit?

Justin: I hope that we can have a very diverse Detroit and that the vibrance and beauty that you see downtown can spread across the entire city. I think that having a wide variety of people, from all different cultures, that are all willing to communicate with each other can really do the city good.

Jayden: It excites me to see companies moving back to the city, especially because for while we were in a rough patch with the bankruptcy and business failure. But, in addition to the downtown area flourishing, I want to see the outer parts of the city flourish too. I know it will be hard but that’s something I’d love to see happen.

Do you have a favorite spot in Detroit?

Justin: I would say Belle Isle. I’ve rode my bike around there and gone to the beach a lot. There’s just something about the island, the water, the atmosphere in the summertime that is unparalled to anything in the city to me.

Jayden: My favorite place would be the Riverwalk. I like the view of the water, downtown, and the bridge. It really helps me just relax and think about life.

The interns play an important role on the Operations team.
Skillman interns work in the office several days a week while balancing a full course load.

Can you describe the internship program at Cass Tech and how you got connected with the Skillman Foundation?

Justin: At Cass, we have a co-op program called the Cooperative Learning Experience where business curriculum students can work for part of the day and then go to class in the afternoon. It really helps to give us a sneak peek into what working life is like. Skillman really stood out because of the family environment around the office. I’m really glad I was placed here.

Jayden: For me, Cass’ co-op program has been a great opportunity to practice my interview skills, learn how to write an application and experience a professional environment. Mrs. Reese, the director of the program, helped connect me with Skillman because she knew about my passion for community work and kids. When I learned that I’d received the internship a few days after I interviewed, I knew it was going to be a perfect fit and I’ve really enjoyed my experience so far.

What is it like balancing an internship and all other aspects of being in high school?

Justin: Having the internship actually helps balance my schedule because I don’t have to take as many extra classes since I work half the day. I’m also taking some advance level classes this semester so this internship allows me to focus on those while also gaining work experience.

Jayden: It’s challenging at times. But I look at it as a great learning experience too. Having to balance out both, a job and school, is something that I think will help prepare me for college.

What have you learned so far in your internship with Skillman?

Jayden and Justin both work closely with Skillman staff on a variety of projects.

Justin: I learned how to professional world really works. I think we all have preconceived notions about how an office may be but here I really learned about inter-office communication, how people handle problems, it was really life changing.

Jayden: The internship has helped me learn to manage my time and how to communicate in a professional setting. It has been a great experience so far.

With graduation quickly approaching, what are your plans for after high school?

Justin: I was recently accepted to the University of Michigan and Howard University. If I choose U of M I’ll be participating in their summer semester but if I go with Howard, my plan is to work as a golf caddy this summer.

Jayden: After high school, I want to study business in college. So far, I’ve been accepted to Michigan State University, Central Michigan University, and Western Michigan University. Wherever I go, I also plan on getting involved in the community on campus too. After college, my plan is to come back to Detroit and help give back.

The future is bright for these two talented young men and we are proud to have them as a part of our intern team! Stayed tuned to our blog as the intern team shares more updates about their experience at the Foundation.

Since 2010, the Skillman Foundation has been honored to welcome a talented group of high school interns to our offices each year through a co-op program at Cass Technical High School and a work-study initiative at Cristo Rey High School in Detroit. Over the course of the year, these interns play an important role on our Operations team and get introduced to philanthropy by working closely with other teams across the Foundation.

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