(Special to South Florida Times) – LAUDERHILL — When most students were relaxing during the summer holidays, enjoying a break from the daily grind of school, Andre Lewis was busy learning the business of entrepreneurship. “I was okay going to work but getting up early in the morning was hard,” Andre said in an interview.
Andre, 14, was one of seven high school students the Greater Caribbean American Chamber of Commerce picked for its annual internship program. He spent seven weeks under the tutelage of Cassandra Hawthorne, regional manager of Golden Krust Bakery in Lauderhill.
“It was great,” the Piper High School ninth-grader said of the experience. “I learned how to cooperate with others and ‘get with the program,’ meaning work fast. I also learned to work diligently and responsibly.”
The chamber started the program some time ago and then restarted it last year with the aim of developing future business leaders and helping young people achieve their career goals by providing them with hands-on training with professional supervision.
“We figured this was the best way for students to recognize what it is like in the real workplace after they leave school,” said Albert Lettman, president of the chamber. “And it’s also a way for businesses to look at future employees.”
Andre and the others students who successfully completed the program were applauded for their efforts at an awards dinner on Aug. 12 at Donna’s Restaurant & Lounge in Lauderhill. Chamber officials presented them with certificates of completion, letters of reference from their mentors, congratulatory letters, school supplies and a small cash allowance.
State Rep. Hazel Rogers, D-Lauderdale Lakes, one of the chamber’s founding members, said the internship program was started because the organization saw a need to get young people engaged during the summer holidays.
During the interview segment of their application process, students were asked why they wanted to enter the program and they were matched with businesses based on their interests.
Several businesses partnered with the chamber to provide internships, including McKinley Financial Services, Pearle Vision, Beacon TV, Jamaica National Money Transfer, Golden Krust Bakery, and Amerika Food Store.
“For the businesses to open their doors to 14- and 16-year-old kids for seven weeks, three days a week, that was an awesome commitment,” Rogers said.
The Lauderhill Regional Chamber of Commerce and the Lauderdale Lakes Chamber of Commerce also joined forces with the Caribbean chamber to conduct a life skills seminar for the students. Speakers from the business community covered topics such as Effective Public Speaking, Motivational Talk, Money Management, Conflict Resolution and Etiquette.
Rogers, a longtime advocate for children programs, who also mentored Andre during the summer, said he was shy initially but blossomed during the program which ran from June through August.
“He communicated with me all the time,” Rogers said. “Everything that he was doing differently, he would share it with me. I had a great time with Andre.”
Tracy-Ann Taylor may be reached at Tayltra9@aol.com.
KHARY BRUYNING/FOR SOUTH FLORIDA TIMES. Andre Lewis
* Varrol Bailey, 16, Deerfield Beach High
* Desiree Barrett, 15, South Plantation High
* Imari Lang, 16, Piper High
* Andre Lewis, 14, Piper High
* Omar McKay, 16, Coconut Creek High
* Peter Nicholson, 16, Coral Springs High
* Andrise West, 17, Boyd Anderson High