Another summer has passed, and the Hire Houston Youth program successfully completed another season helping area teens and young adults find various employment opportunities with the City of Houston and their partners.
For six interns hired to work at HTV, the program served as a steppingstone or first introduction toward their careers in the world of media.
“I’ve heard from everyone that journalists today need to have multimedia skills, so that was a big drawing factor for me to do this,” said Pili Saravia, a college student studying print journalism at the University of Texas-Austin.
The internship also allowed her to diversify her skillset, she added. “It helped me write my print stories much faster,” Saravia explained. “It used to take me five hours to write a story, and now I can do it in an hour and a half maybe. It helped me get a different perspective in storytelling and it made me love video too.”
Since 2016, Hire Houston Youth has served as the facilitator to connect youth to local jobs where they have an opportunity to earn and learn valuable skills. It’s the first city-wide collective effort that saw 457 youth ages 16-24 participate in an eight-week paid summer job and internship at the City of Houston, and public, private and philanthropic sectors.
As a joint effort between the Mayor’s Office for Education and the City of Houston Human Resources Department, the importance of the internship program for Houston area youth cannot be understated.
“It is important for our youth to not only gain valuable work experience and contacts while earning a paycheck, they also to learn about municipal employment and the wide variety of career opportunities available,” Velma Laws, HR internship coordinator explained.
Hire Houston Youth provides the City of Houston with an opportunity to address long-standing inequities by creating pathways for residents to resilient, living wage trajectory jobs, Mayor’s Office of Education Director Olivera Jankovska said.
Jankovska also said the program enables Houston’s youth to acquire the training and skills needed for a successful path to higher education and future careers. “It is not only employment, but empowerment as well,” she said.
Mayor Sylvester Turner said he set an ambitious goal this year for the program to offer 20,000 jobs to the city’s youth and young adults. “I am very happy to see that we exceeded that by offering 20,080 job opportunities,” he told the interns and city department leaders at the annual Hire Houston Youth Summer Bash.
The mayor, who is in his final year of his second term, set this goal as a part of his One Safe Houston initiative. “I wanted every young person to have the opportunity to explore career options and acquire the training and skills needed for a successful path to higher education and future careers,” he said.
Laws said some interns might not work for the city in the future, but others do. “We’ve had some from this program who were retained and became full time city employees. Many of them are returning to school and will apply for the program again next summer,” she said.
“Our hope is when they finish their education, the city of Houston is their first choice for employment.”
“They are really heavy.”
At HTV’s Studio A, Saravia and her fellow interns, Karla Castillo, Madison Osazuwa, Joshua Peavy, Tatiana Readeaux and O’Neal Harrison, worked on their end of summer Hire Houston Youth television program. Saravia manned the camera while Castillo and Peavy worked as on-air talent, and Osazuwa, Readeaux and Harrison worked in the control room.
As aspiring screenwriter, Harrison worked on the audio board for the program, balancing the sound for the program. Working in production was a new experience for him, but one he said he believes will help him in the future.
“I didn’t get to do a lot of cinematic writing here, but it’s good practice for film and editing,” he said. “If I decide I want to go into directing or cinematography, all these skills are transferable. And it’s important that I have that knowledge so that I can have more range for the career I want to go into.”
For Castillo, a broadcast journalism major at the University of North Texas, gratitude described her experience having interned at HTV. “I’ve learned so much. “I feel like I’ve gained so much more knowledge than I could have if I hadn’t applied,” she said.
This was Castillo’s second summer with the internship program. “I was involved last year as a community recreation assistant for the Department of Parks and Recreation. My mom kept seeing it on television and encouraged me to do it” she explained. “I saw they had an HTV one. I didn’t get it last year and I was a little bummed out.”
Readeaux, a video production major at the University of Houston-Sugar Land who dreams of being a music video director, said she gained valuable insight for her future profession in her role as television program director.
“When I had the experience in the control room and learned how it applies to producing music videos, I realize you have to be the director and use your creativity in there to help create the best music video product out there,” she said.
Saravia said the interns also shadowed the HTV team and learned how to produce a show and how to handle all the technical issues. “That’s been really helpful,” she said.
Peavy, at student at The St. John’s School, said the experience helped him learn how to get the best shots and understand there’s always a shot available, even when there isn’t one. “It’s also me taught how to use editing software like Da Vinci,” he said.
The internship at HTV involved more than just working inside a television studio. Marketing and Promotions Supervisor Terri Carter overseas the program and said the interns received a packet of information called ‘HTV Intern Objectives,’ which outlined their title of intern production assistant and provided them with various tasks to complete.
“It gave them a behind-the scenes look at television production and access to hands-on equipment, the talented staff with years of experience and they had the complete attention of a teacher who has a passion for guiding students into this industry,” Carter said.
Carter also said HTV select candidates that not only have an interest in television production, but being a government channel additionally provides them with insight into political journalism.
“This type of journalism helps those candidates who might have an interest in politics and how they can expand on that interest,” she said. “The process also working with the mayor’s communications team provided them with that an up-close look at preparations for press conferences and podcasts.”
“We’ve had interns in the past who have come to us without any knowledge of this type of journalism and have updated their career paths to include political science,” Carter said.
The interns learned how to search for story ideas by going around various locations around downtown looking for news and learning how to work with the equipment.
“We had an opportunity to shoot a video at Discovery Green and during the Fourth of July,” Osazuwa said. “We walked around and recorded our standups, and it was cool. It was hot outside, but it was fun.”
Other assignments included doing a story at BARC and life inside the tunnels downtown. The main lesson learned was not to sit around and wait for a news story to drop on their laps.
“I think it was during our first few weeks here, and (HTV Director) Ted Irvin saw the group all on their laptops. We had barely learned how to use the camera equipment and he told us, ‘You know there are stories happening all around city hall!’” Castillo said. “We looked for stories around city hall, but it was kind of limited, and I felt like that was a big challenge for me. We’re all covering the same things.”
Harrison’s story on the tunnels left him with a very memorable impression.
“A lot of people don’t know they have ping pong tables, foosball or cornhole there. Me and Madison made a story about that,” he said. “We learned how irresponsible people are because they lose the ping pong balls all the time, and they just turn up randomly throughout the day.”
One thing the interns all agreed on: they are not fans of working with the JVC television camera. “They are really heavy,” Readeaux said.
“Mr. Irvin wanted us to learn who to shoot with it instead of using our cellphones. I got tired of it after a while,” Osazuwa laughed. “But I did learn how to use it, how to white balance it, how to clean the lenses with the wipes … at least I know how to use it.”
Teaching the camera how to use its colors by white balancing it was also frustrating for them. “You had to teach them the color white every time you entered a new room, which you would think would be one of the most basic colors,” Peavy said. “The background noise in the background was loud and even then, the video quality wasn’t a good as your iPhone.”
While the camera might have been challenging, it paid off once the interns learned how to properly use it. “I managed to get clearer shots and just the right amount of lighting as well after I learned how to use it,” Readeaux said.
Carter said Hire Houston Youth has been an outstanding program for students, it gives them a sense of direction in their future endeavors. “It provides them with the skills of being in a work environment and working with other interns from different backgrounds,” she said.
And the experience of working at a Public, Education and Government television studio was an experience they are not likely to forget.
“You really learn so many skills. I’ve only ever edited anything before on iMovie, which is the most basic level, simplest version of editing, and now using DaVinci, also learned camera techniques, budgeting how to go to shoots, learning the shots you needed to produce something good,” Harrison said. “Anything film-related, this is the internship for you.”