“I learned that it was up to me to take action.”

Cindy, a senior, works at Discover Financial Services and will be attending Beloit College in the fall. This is the speech she delivered at our Evening of Gratitude to our Business Partners on May 9, 2018.

Good evening, my name is Cindy and I am a senior here at Cristo Rey St. Martin. I am excited to share with you my experiences in my job placements over the past four years. I have worked at the Chicago Botanic Garden for three years, Learn Charter and Discover Financial Services since October of last year. All these jobs have been in different environments and they have all taught me new skills that I will take with me on my journey to college and to future jobs.

I still remember my first day at the Chicago Botanic Garden. When we were on our way there, out of the window I saw a sign that said: “Chicago Botanic Garden and Ravinia Park Next Right.” Seeing that sign made me really nervous. I didn’t know what to expect from this job and I didn’t like the idea of stepping out of my comfort zone. When I was first assigned my job, I was told I would be stuck watering plants, but it was the complete opposite. I worked in an office, in the membership department and did data entry to keep member’s records up to date.

There, I learned some invaluable lessons.  I learned how to pay attention to detail and use different software and programs. The best part, I was trusted by my supervisor, Carolyn, to handle different projects. I had a great relationship with her. She took the time to get to know me, my thoughts and passions and from the beginning she had trust in me, a 14-year-old that didn’t have any knowledge of a business environment. She even wanted me to work over the summer. I appreciated the time she had to check up on me and work with me when I needed help with my projects. Although I enjoyed working there, my amazing coworkers, and the perks I received, like a membership and discounts to museums, I decided I needed a change after three years. I felt that there was more I had to learn through CWSP before I left high school. I wanted to try a new job and learn more through a corporate job.

On the first day of my senior year, I was given a temporary job placement at Learn Charter School because of some complications with the company I was going to work at. I helped a first grade teacher, Mrs.Lopez, with her class and did a few projects for her that would be used in class. I helped her keep the class organized and helped the children with their work. Even though I was there for a short time, I learned that children are a lot of work to handle and I learned patience because children have a lot of energy. I left that job with more respect for teachers because children, and even teenagers, are not easy to handle.

Discover Financial Services is my current CWSP job placement and it has been my toughest transition, but most rewarding. I was nervous on my first day because Discover is such a prestigious corporate job. During my company tour, I was amazed that there was a gym and a grab-and-go close to my department and a cafeteria with various food options. I had never been in a company with all those perks and I liked the environment at Discover, but I also didn’t want to mess up and let the school down. I did struggle my first few months there because I had never experienced the corporate environment and I learned that it was up to me to take action – ask questions and reach out to my supervisor when I needed help doing tasks I had never done before, such as creating presentations or using Excel. I also had to develop analytical skills that I never knew I had. I had to step out of my comfort zone and learn how to be creative with my work. I managed to overcome those struggles with the help of my supervisor, John. He had patience with me and guided me when I was having trouble.

Over time, my supervisor continued to challenge me in new ways to help me improve my professional skills. I also gained confidence in the work I was doing because I kept working on the skills I wanted to improve on. My supervisor once told me, “The more you do it, the easier it becomes,” and this applies to all the work I do. It takes practice to be great at a task.

I’m grateful to have experienced several job placements, because it has shown me that not every job is alike and there is always something new to learn. I’d like to thank Cristo Rey and the Corporate Work Study Program for offering the opportunity that allows students to gain business skills at a young age. I’d also like to thank all the business partners and supervisors for taking the time to train students like me and helping us improve our skills, which we can use throughout our lives.  I also want to thank those I’ve worked with personally for having patience with me and mentoring me to become the person I am today. I am excited for the next chapter and will take these skills with me while I pursue a degree in Chemistry at Beloit College.