How Roles Reversed With One Internship, an Adviser and a High School Senior

HOUSTON PUBLIC MEDIA: "Inside the Classroom"

In Houston Public Media's ongoing series “Inside the Classroom,” Eloisa Cortinas, a senior at Alief Hastings High School, talks with her mentor María Carlota Palacios, who manages community relations at Williams, an energy infrastructure company.

Educators and experts across Texas are trying to figure out how to make students more prepared for the workforce. One program called Genesys Works based in Houston connects disadvantaged teenagers with real world work experience before they graduate high school.
In our ongoing series “Inside the Classroom,” Eloisa Cortinas, a senior at Alief Hastings High School, talks with her mentor Maria Carlota Palacios, who manages community relations at Williams, an energy infrastructure company.

Below is a transcript of their conversation:
Eloisa Cortinas: “I remember the first day and I remember I wasn’t as on time so I was pretty nervous. And then when I saw you, I was just like, ‘Wow!’ And you took us into the conference room and you asked me, you were like, ‘What do you want to work on? What do you want grow, you know, as a person? What is it that you want to explore?’ I thought that was really great. And it kind of took me by surprise because I thought, you know, I was going to show up in Corporate America and I was going to sit down in my cubicle everyday and just do my work punch and punch out — that type of thing.”

María Carlota Palacios: “Working with Genesys Works is usually, ‘OK! I wonder who I’m going to get next! thing which. Who’s going to be the new intern this year?’ And a little bit nervous as to I wonder if they’re really going to like it or are they going to like me. And when we met you and we saw how serious you were and how eager and how ready and what a wonderful young woman you really are — we were so excited. And I’m very excited that I get to have the privilege to work with you.”

Cortinas: “When I’m at school sometimes, they give us an assignment and we know this is not going to be graded. There’s a sub today and this is why they’re giving us this work. But we still have to get it done because, yeah, like, we still have to get it done. So I guess that’s a big difference. And like the whole, like, when I get to work it’s like, ‘OK, no, now this matters.’ You have to actually do this but, you know, sometimes when you’re in school, you’re just kind of, like, ‘The Pythagorean Theorem! Totally, I’m going to use this in life later, I know at some point.”

Palacios: “You are my third intern. And the reason I do it is because I love to see the growth that happens when you come in and then you leave at the end of your school year. The transformation for me is inspiring, is a way of keeping me optimistic about the world. Because mentoring you, you also mentor me back. I learn a lot from you, and it keeps me young on top of that.”

Cortinas: “What you’re saying, the whole, like, you develop other skills, you get to know more about yourself — I definitely think that’s true because, I mean, whenever you have me, like, calling people or talking to them, I used to be not afraid afraid. But it made me nervous to have to come onto the phone and, you know, since our floor can sometimes get dead silent, to hear your voice just cut through like that and the interactions and your help and support and everything — It’s made me less afraid to go out and just be, like, ‘I’m going to go. This is my goal. I’m going to get there.’ It’s made me more confident.”

Palacios: ” You also mentioned that because this job is also helping you think of what your passion is — in helping other women — how are you formulating that in your mind as you grow?”

Cortinas: “I want to start a nonprofit afterwards. It gave me I guess more direction and it made my plans more concrete and something that I really wanted to strive to. I want to go into finance because that’s an area where there’s not a lot of knowledge about it. So I want to go into that and, I guess, help low-income families or women that have just come out of domestic abuse or something like that, help them gain their independence. Because I feel like you need money. As bad as it might sound to some people, like, money is necessary. And sometimes, you know, I can’t give everybody in the world a million bucks so that they can go follow their dreams. But I can help advise them and help them manage their money so that they do get to chase whatever ambitions they have. They do get to have that independence and be able to follow whatever they think is their calling.”

Palacios: “And you will do it. I have no doubt about it. And I’m just very happy, happy and privileged to know that you’re here with me. And I’m here with you.

Cortinas: “Well, I feel the exact same way.”