Puente’s summer interns test-drive future careers

Gabriela Flores, along with Simone and Tallulah Froley of Half Moon Bay, and Bert, Square Peg’s beloved horse.

Gabriela Flores doesn’t consider herself a horse person. But she’s spending the summer with them. The 20-year-old is in awe of the horses she cares for at The Square Peg Foundation, a Half Moon Bay-based nonprofit that uses horsemanship to help kids with disabilities become emotionally stable and self-reliant.

Flores chose to do a summer internship at Square Peg because of her younger sister, a 15-year-old with Down syndrome. Flores wants to become a social worker, specializing in young clients with disabilities.

“The horses are a unique example of gentleness and power. They are so lovable and calm,” she says.

Hector Lopez

Flores is one of three young adults to benefit from Puente-sponsored internships this summer. The other two are Hector Lopez, who is interning at Symantec; and Omar Ortega, who is sharpening his accounting skills with At Your Nonprofit Service in Alameda, Calif.

Ortega, 18, helps file papers for the family-owned accounting business. A self-declared “money person,” Ortega is about to start college and is thinking about pursuing an accounting major. So far, he’s enjoying the work.

“I feel the responsibility of making sure that I satisfy the organizations that I’m working for – I kind of take that to heart. I always want to do the best that I can,” he says.

Omar Ortega

Summer internships aren’t like summer jobs. They’re not just about earning a wage. Ideally, they should reflect the interests or career goals of the young adults who sign up for Puente’s internship program, says Puente Executive Director Kerry Lobel.

“It’s not always easy to match the interest with the internship. This year we really worked with them to home their interests more carefully, and it’s been more rewarding for them.”

Take Ortega, who has had several jobs at Puente over the years. Puente staff members noticed his aptitude for numbers and assigned him the job of organizing Puente’s summer program at YMCA Camp Jones Gulch.

“Here, you get to do a lot of things, but you don’t always get to ‘own’ something,” says Lobel. “Omar did.”

Funding for the Project is provided, in part, by the TomKat Charitable Trust and San Mateo County’s Workforce Investment Board as well as individual donors. If you would like to offer an internship to south Coast youth, contact Rita Mancera at rmancera@mypuente.org, 650.879.1691 ext. 102.

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