Originally Published: March 29, 2018 6:05 a.m.
If sharing is caring, then former Intel manager Denise Herst cares a lot about teens in Yavapai County.
“I wanted to pass on all that I learned,” she wrote in an email about her role with Project Launch, an annual program for local teens.
In 2016, after 35 years with Intel — the multinational computer company based in California, in Sillicon Valley — Herst retired from her position as strategic initiatives manager on the company’s campus in Chandler, where she had held a range of positions throughout her career.
Now she leads the teen-mentoring program in Prescott — sponsored by the Teen Launch Paid — training dozens of high school students each year in what Herst describes as “workforce readiness.”
In four workshops, held on Saturdays, she introduces the teens to the skills that, according to Herst, they will need to gain what she describes as a “competitive advantage… in an aggressive job market.”
In addition to the workshops, Project Launch also places students in summer internships.
Tim Lewis, of Iron Springs Design — a webpage-design company in Prescott — speaks highly of his experience with an intern from Project Launch.
“Our intern, Royce, helped so much with day-to-day activities and was a real benefit to our operations!,” Lewis wrote. “He has continued on with us on a part-time basis and been a real asset to our organization.”
The Saturday workshops begin in April, and the internships typically begin in June and wrap up in early August, Herst wrote. But she added that internship schedules can be flexible, to take into account families’ summer travel plans.
As far as the length of each internship, that, she wrote, is “negotiated between the business host and the teens.”
Other local businesses that have accepted teen interns from Project Launch include the local VA Hospital, Specialized Publishing, Prescott Performing Arts, Grand Highland Hotel, Christian Camp, Odella Designs, Daisy Mountain Vet Care, Yavapai Regional Medical Center and The Launch Pad Teen Center.
Cassidy Leo, a 16-year-old sophomore at Tri-City Prep High School, in Prescott, is among the students chosen to participate in the program this year.
“As someone who plans to attend business school, Project Launch is an invaluable opportunity!” Leo wrote, adding that she was eager to learn about “networking techniques and proper email etiquette, as well as how to persevere in the face of challenges. I simply couldn’t be more grateful to learn these necessary skills at a young age!”
Teens who participated in last year’s program also wrote of their experiences, providing a glimpse into what it meant to them: “It was amazing,” one student wrote.
We learned so much in short period of time. It will help me in all areas of my life.”
Another student wrote: “I loved working with the other students and having hands-on experiences and learning all about what they want to grow up and do. I loved this because it really helped me with my communication skills with other people.”
Another student wrote: “I felt as though the program provided for me a more extensive look into people of different backgrounds with different hopes for their future. Plus, seeing their different approaches to certain activities and interview questions was very fun and educational.”
One student wrote, “Sometimes I feel as though I have trouble with engaging people with my body language, and I felt as though it helped me ensure that I make people feel comfortable and listened to.”
Another student wrote: “Hearing your insight on different topics as well as receiving opinions from my peers really helped me have light bulb moments and understand business technique. The notes that we received as well as the activities we did were a huge help with learning important life lessons and work readiness skills.”
One student wrote, “The breathing techniques have really helped me, and once I was taught them I have used the technique repeatedly.”
Another student wrote, “I personally also liked how these workshops opened my eyes to the many aspects of a job, and made me realize that a job is about experience, not just going and getting paid.”
And one student praised the complimentary lunch provided during the weekend workshops: “The pizza is what I liked most about the program!”
As far as next year’s program, Herst said she begins recruiting in January at high schools throughout the county.