Signing Day celebrates Gwinnett students’ internships

The thrill high school athletes experience when they commit to attend a top-ranked college or university is often highlighted with a signing celebration. An event this week in Lawrenceville offered some of that excitement to students whose higher education goals are outside of an arena or stadium.

For the second year in a row, the city honored students from Central Gwinnett High and Discovery High who were selected for its Summer of Impact internship program.

That collaboration among the two schools, the city and nonprofit Impact46 gave 18 students the opportunity to work for local businesses that fit their passions during the 8-week summer break. The “Summer of Impact” internship program launched last year.

A signing day was held Tuesday at Central Gwinnett — complete with photo ops and words of advice from businesses and city leaders.

“This program allows businesses, churches, nonprofits to collaborate and invest in the future of Lawrenceville as it continues to grow and develop,” said Jen Young of Impact 46.

Besides having a summer job, the students will expand their social, personal and professional networks and hone leadership and community engagement skills.

The 10 students in last summer’s program, all from Central Gwinnett, had advice for the next group.

Amara Okoro, a rising senior at Central Gwinnett, worked at Impact 46 last year. “We didn’t know what to expect since we were the first ones,” she said. “It was a great experience. They saw to my needs and made sure I was learning things that would help in the field I want to study.”

Okoro said she’s interested in forensics in some form.

“I got to visit the morgue and help file and pack up evidence,” she said, beaming.

The Summer of Impact isn’t designed to be busywork, said Nicole N. Benton, CEO of NNK 4 L.I.F.E., another partner organization. Her business specializes in counseling services, and she said she’s worked with college interns in the past who have become employees.

“I’m looking forward to working with high school students,” she said.

Oscar Parada is graduating from Discovery and plans to study computer science at the University of Georgia. He’ll be working at NNK 4 L.I.F.E. and said he’s excited about the possibilities.

“I’m interested in psychology and maybe counseling and therapy,” he said. “This will give me a chance to see it from a new perspective.”

Benton said interns help with intake and will be shown how the system works.

This year Hearts to Nourish Hope, a local nonprofit that works with 16-24-year-olds, helped secure funding and internships for graduating seniors from Central Gwinnett as well as Discovery.

These are the organizations that hired students this summer: City of Lawrenceville Communications/Community Development and Public Works Departments, Impact46/Path Project, Peach State Federal Credit Union, Shuma Sports, Aurora Theatre, PureFun, and many more.