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The Big Impact of Small Moments

“A butterfly can flap its wings in Peking and in Central Park you get rain instead of sunshine.”– Jurassic Park
A single moment can have a powerful effect on a student’s life. A box of crayons can unveil a child’s passion for art, or a trip to the aquarium might inspire a love of marine biology. Every time a donor makes sure a classroom has access to crucial tools and experiences, a student has the opportunity to have their butterfly moment.
We see evidence of these moments every day online and through our student thank-yous. And thanks to our high school internship program, we’ve had the opportunity to see students experiencing these moments right in our office.
This year, we hosted seven interns from high schools across New York, inviting some of the city’s best and brightest to join us to learn the ins and outs of working at DonorsChoose.org. We set out to teach them practical skills like how to work in a modern office setting, how a nonprofit functions, and how to write a resumé and cover letter.
Two of those students shared their stories with us, inspiring us with their passion for learning and their excitement for the future.
Meet Kayla (left) and Maida (right), two DonorsChoose.org high school internsTwo Students, Both Alike in their Journey
Like so many student stories, these start with teachers. Kayla attends high school in the Bronx, Maida in Brooklyn. Both had teachers who used DonorsChoose.org to fundraise for classroom supplies. Kayla’s teacher needed a DJ setup to teach music production techniques, and Maida’s needed a document camera to project lessons to her Global Studies class. When we sent out a call for interns, both teachers suggested their students apply. As Maida’s teacher told her, “they helped us, so let’s help them back.”
As soon as they started with us last fall, we paired each student with a staff mentor. Kayla joined Tea, our superstar product designer, and Maida joined Lynn, our graphic design whiz.
Kayla Learns to Code
Before this internship, Kayla, a junior, hadn’t thought much about computer science as a line of work. She was very clear, saying “I didn’t want to do that! I wasn’t encouraged to do that. I was like, ‘Oh that’s boring. You have to stay on the computer all day.’”
Like most high schoolers, she wasn’t sure about her career path. She had taken a number of music courses, but wasn’t sure if that was a better fit as a career or a hobby. Working with Tea, she started learning to code. They bonded over retro video games while Tea introduced Kayla to the world of web development.
Now, Kayla’s looking to go to college with a major in computer science. She wants to stay in the city, so the Pratt Institute is at the top of her list. She believes everyone should have the opportunity to learn about the wide range of available career options before having to choose. Her high school encourages this attitude, introducing students to professionals from various fields. They cover core classes, but also have students take classes in music production, studio art, or engineering. Kayla believes this variety is part of the reason she’s so passionate about learning. She says that too many students experience high school with the attitude of “I’m going to pass this class and graduate. Whatever.”
Before high school, she was one of them. “I had that mindset where I’m like ‘I’m just gonna get out of here and work somewhere, it doesn’t matter.’ But now I’m like, I’m gonna do [computer science], I’m gonna go to school for this, and I’m gonna have an actual career and gonna have fun with this instead of just having a regular job.”
Maida Explores Design
Maida, a sophomore, started her internship with a diverging set of paths in front of her — she was considering a career as a cardiologist, optometrist, or architect.
Her school offers a class in graphic design, which piqued her interest. She thought that a good understanding of Photoshop and Illustrator would help her out no matter which career she chose. When she’s in the office she meets with Lynn, who teaches her the tools and techniques of graphic design.
All of our interns spend some time with our Content Operations department, processing and organizing the huge number of student thank-yous that pass through our office on a daily basis. Maida fondly recalls this experience, even the occasional “glitter bomb,” when students go over the top with the messiest craft supply. She loves the experience of working at our office, saying “whenever I come in, I see everyone smiling, so that lightens up my mood too.”
Maida still has two years left before she goes off to college, so she’s not sure what path she’ll walk down. But now graphic designer has joined the list, and even if it’s not what she ends up doing, she’s learned a valuable skill.

Every moment matters
It’s impossible to know in advance which moment will change a student’s life. It could be an amazing internship experience, an influential teacher, or just the knowledge that someone out in the world cares about them enough to donate to their education. All we can do is create as many of these moments as possible, and give students the chance they need to thrive. We know Kayla and Maida will be successful whatever careers they choose, and we can’t wait for the next group of interns to join us so we can help them discover their path.
Do you know or teach students who might be interested in our high school internship program?
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