Bud Keith Fund
Employment experience has two benefits to students. First, it makes them more competitive when they graduate, demonstrating that they can show up on time and can function in a work environment. Second, if the work is related to the career they are studying, it enables the student to assess whether he or she is a good fit for that line of work.
The Bud Keith Fund’s first effort at providing students with work experience was to hire one of the Bud Keith scholars, Julyannette Haughton, to translate a remembrance of Bud Keith into Spanish and record it for access by other Bud Keith scholars. Julyannette is bilingual and hopes to become a translator. The remembrance was written by Jack Buege, who went through Peace Corps training with Bud. You can read Jack’s remembrance in English and hear Julyannette reading her excellent translation.
A more elaborate effort was the 2014 internship of Bud Keith scholar Geovanni Ibarra at the Royal Sonesta Hotel & Casino in Panama City. Because Geovanni’s background didn’t fit with the office environment of a fancy hotel, the Patronato staff worked at polishing him, helping him buy appropriate clothes, teaching him to tie a tie, practicing going through a cafeteria line and eating a restaurant meal. They practiced his commute, including the part through the hotel to his workstation, five times before his first day on the job. The Patronato staff also gave him extra classes on using a cane and the computer.
Geovanni Ibarra at his workstation at the Royal Sonesta Hotel & Casino in Panama City
Additionally, the Patronato staff ensured that the work place was appropriate for Geovanni. They installed screen reader software, JAWS, on his office computer and trained the hotel’s regular staff on how to work with a blind person. That benefited not only Geovanni but future blind people seeking employment at the hotel. Corporate IT departments are reluctant to install unfamiliar software on the company computers. Now, the hotel’s staff has seen that JAWS does no harm. The work experience went well but not perfectly. Apparently everybody liked Geovanni and thought he was a good worker. He learned to use Microsoft Excel and Outlook. However, the job was make-work, intended to expose Geovanni to the hotel’s work environment, not to perform a function that the hotel needed. That would probably be fine for a teenager but Geovanni, 31 years old, was frustrated that he got his assigned tasks done in two hours and had little to do for the rest of his 4-hour work day. At the end of his two months at the hotel, he got a nice letter of recommendation.
When Estefania Cubillos graduated from the University of Panama in the Spring of 2019, she had no job prospects. To make her more marketable, we paid her a stipend while she took a three-month unpaid internship with Capital Financiero, a print, e-newsletter, and web news organization in Panama City. You can see 14 of her stories by typing “Cubillos” in the search box at https://elcapitalfinanciero.com/ . We also paid for the Patronato staff to support her, ensuring that she was able to get to work, installing assistive software on her computer, and labeling devices in Braille. The internship lasted three months.