Not the Typical Day in the Office


Nate Taylor

Internships afford students opportunities to branch out into fields more specialized than typical high school courses allow. Some ROP programs offered at Portola High include automotive technology and animal healthcare, according to ROP counselor Pa Shia Escoto.

The image of the stereotypical intern is all too familiar: highly unmotivated, clumsy around the workplace and capable of only the most basic tasks. In reality, however, student interns are quite the opposite, adapting to professional settings while setting their sights on a future career.

At Portola High, students are making use of these opportunities to prepare themselves for the future and connect with professionals in their field.

[My internship] teaches us skills like communication, independence and diligence that really transcend to college and, beyond that, in the workplace”

— Anne Wu

Portola High offers internship opportunities to students through a variety of Regional Occupational Programs classes, including accredited courses in health or engineering. According to ROP counselor Pa Shia Escoto, most students enrolled in ROP classes spend one semester in the classroom learning topics related to a career before diving into hands-on work in the spring.

“The way that ROP designs internships, it’s really to help the kids not only learn directly, but also see it and experience it with their own eyes,” Escoto said. “So, in a way, [the ROP programs] want to show to the students that, in order to really understand what kind of career they really want to get into, they have to experience it themselves.”

For prospective bioengineer and junior Joanna Rhim, an independent biology research internship at the University of California, Irvine helped her gain experience using Google Colaboratory to process data from a variety of biology experiments conducted by UCI students. According to Rhim, the internship inspired her to think about and make connections from the data she analyzed.

“I gained basic field experience in bioengineering since it has a lot of statistics, analyzing and thinking about the data,” Rhim said. “Some of the stuff I learned from the internship itself, it connected back to my class in AP Bio. For example, I’m researching immunotherapy and T cells right now.”

Interning in political activist groups gives students their own voice and the ability to create a change in the community for issues that resonate with them, according to Katie Porter youth advisory board member and senior Anne Wu.

As part of the youth advisory board, Wu discusses student opinions on topics that relate to the youth of the district, with the topic changing every month. In November, they discussed legislation regarding education policy, and in December they discussed healthcare reform, according to Wu.

“There’s a lot of unfamiliar terms that you don’t really get to see anywhere else, not in the news and not in school, and I think the most important knowledge that I’ve gained pertains to legislative jargon,” Wu said. “Beyond that, it teaches us skills like communication, independence and diligence that really transcend to college and, beyond that, in the workplace.”

One might call “learning on the job” a sign of inexperience. But for student interns, it means pursuing a career with direction and taking advantage of both the high school and professional worlds.

For more information about the ROP courses and internships offered at Portola High through Coastline ROP, see You can register for ROP courses by visiting the College & Career department of the Counseling Office and following this link: