15 August 2017

A Letter From Our 12-Year-Old Summer Intern

We all have an event in our lives that triggers the motion of our personal journey. Mine started as a 2 year old child with a book. The book was Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree. The Giving Tree exposed me to the relationship between humans and nature. In the book, I saw the common theme of human greed. Although the tree was giving the boy all it had, the boy repeatedly came back unhappy, and asking for more. As a result of this, whenever I saw a stump, I would sadly ask my mother, “is this the giving tree?” That’s when my mother started introducing the concept of caring and respecting the environment. I often heard my parents speak of environmental awareness and about being citizens of the world. What is a citizen of the world? A citizen of the world is someone who lives life in a responsible fashion, and participates in a greater network that brings awareness to a sustainable life for the benefit of our planet. That was exactly what I wanted to do.

I turned to my school for opportunities that would fulfill my passion to take care of the environment. I soon became a part of the first Susty Girls Pilot Program. Susty Girls is a non-profit organization that is teaching girls to be sustainable and make the world a better place. I participated in the No Junk Mail Campaign, where we reached out to the East Palo Alto community and encouraged them to bring all their junk mail to our school so we could properly recycle the paper. In the process, we also taught the East Palo Alto Charter parents how to unsubscribe from junk mail.

As a twelve year old, I wanted to take my work to the next level. I wanted to keep the momentum going by becoming the bridge and voice between my generation and the ones before to help create more awareness. This summer, I had the opportunity to intern with Elemental Excelerator, a non-profit dedicated to changing the world, one community at a time. Elemental Excelerator, or EEx, does this by providing “funding, connections, and a place to roll out ideas,” the most common answer for what entrepreneurs feel they need in order to become successful. Speaking of connections, I was first introduced to the organization by my aunt, Veronica Rocha. She is an Executive Board Director for Women In Renewable Energy and the Renewable Energy Program Manager for the Hawaii State Energy Office.

In one of my conversations with my aunt, I expressed my interest in renewable energy and my aunt extended an invitation to stay with her this summer. She suggested I create a video resume to showcase my skill set and enthusiasm toward sustainability so she could send it to local companies. At first it was challenging to create a resume since I am only 12 years old and did not have any work experience. I had no idea a two-minute video could take an hour and a half to make! There was so much I wanted to say.

When I received the first e-mail from my aunt saying companies loved my resume and video, my heart skipped multiple beats. I felt very accomplished, because it took a lot of commitment, dedication and perseverance to meet the requirements asked. Of course, the rest is history.

EEx was the company I decided to intern with, and I don’t regret it. I met amazing people like Lauren and Jamila, who made me feel at ease and introduced me to the rest of the team. Because of my age, I could not do a full eight hour internship, but could only volunteer for three hours a day. This meant that we had to find other activities for me to do. Luckily, St. Andrews Priory was nearby and they were offering classes in Engineering and Stop Motion Picture, which I gladly signed up for. I also signed up for volleyball camp at the University of Hawaii, for when classes at Saint Andrews ended.

My day started at 5:55 a.m. each morning. I quickly went from being a child to a mini adult, meaning I had to be responsible for waking myself up, and getting out of bed the first time. I had to plan everything beforehand, which was different from my usual schedule of having my parents wake me up in the morning, and make me breakfast. No longer in my own home, I replayed all the advice my parents gave me over the years. I felt proud and productive being able to remember and recall their advice. I started at St. Andrews at 8 a.m., followed by lunch with my aunt and my internship at EEx from 1 to 4 p.m. Imagine the following picture. Every day I would transform from my kid clothes into a business casual attire that included a professional looking wallet and my bright pink pencil box in front of me (a not so subtle reminder that gave my age away)! Nonetheless, I was ready.

During my stay at EEx, I had the opportunity to attend board meetings. In these meetings, I was able to witness the process of Elemental Excelerator picking their 2018 cohort of companies. A lot of extensive analytical research and time goes into choosing their cohorts, and with so many qualified candidates, they have their work cut out for them. I also had the opportunity to speak to people from Pono Home, such as Sara Cobble. Sara told me about the process Pono Home went through to become a portfolio company, and it really takes a lot of hard work to become one.

I also had the opportunity to be on ThinkTech Hawaii. ThinkTech is a talk show that covers many topics, including sustainability. They bring in people from different companies and have conversations with them about their current accomplishments and future goals. I loved my experience on ThinkTech and was very fortunate that EEx gave me this opportunity. We interviewed Jonathan Howery, a Business Development Associate at Stem, and former RISE fellow. Jonathan worked hard to earn his job at Stem, at one point while he was a fellow he worked seven jobs at the same time! I was very inspired by Jonathan’s motivation and passion for what he did. As my internship came to an end, two main lessons stayed with me.

The first lesson came during a brief moment on the ThinkTech interview, when Jay commented on the importance of expression. “If you are in an entrepreneurial situation, you need to be able to articulate.” Articulate: “Express (an idea or feeling) fluently and coherently.” I believe this stuck with me because I am working on my own articulation skills. I believe that being articulate doesn’t come to someone naturally, but takes a lot of dedication and practice to achieve. Being able to communicate with other people and build relationships is a key component in becoming successful in the future.

The second lesson from my summer experience is that networking is extremely important. Without it, I would not have been able to find this amazing company by reaching out to my aunt, and her introduction to the people in her network. I am planning to stay in contact with my EEx Crew such as Jamila, Jill, Shawn, Debbie, and Lauren. In fact, I would love to have the EEx leadership or Communications team visit Castilleja and help spread their message, where I can also connect them to my Castilleja network.

I especially would love if the Elemental teams visited Castilleja because Castilleja is an all girls school that empowers women to be the next future leaders. It thrills me that Elemental Excelerator was created by female brain power. I was inspired by Dawn and Jill’s dedication and perseverance toward their non-profit and what they are doing. I had the opportunity to meet Jill’s family, and it was nice for me to see the balance of having a highly successful company while still having a family.

As I continue to reflect on my personal journey, I can’t help but be amazed at the thought of how one book could awaken the passion in my two-year-old self, who in the future, would find my passion in sustainability and renewable energy, and finally take my place as a true citizen of the world. As I leave Hawaii, I will continue to grow my voice, and hope to inspire others to become citizens of the world. I have been sincerely blessed, grateful beyond measures, and thankful for this opportunity.

Sincerely,
Aizza Rocha