It was orientation day for the inaugural Summer 500 Program. I had heard about this new program on Facebook, and ended up being one of the last students to sign up; doing so a few days before applications were due. Now I question myself as to why I waited so long to respond to such a beneficial opportunity, but I’m sure glad I did!
If you’ve never heard of it, Mayor Eddie DeLoach’s Summer 500 Program teamed up the City of Savannah and businesses across the community to give 500 rising high school seniors paid internships for the whole summer! It gives students like me a chance to get real-world professional business experience, and not to mention a lil’ summer cash, too!
After meeting tons of new friends so early in the day, I waited in line patiently to see where I would work for the next nine weeks of summer. I was handed an envelope that said, “Creative Coast,” under my name. Unfamiliar with the title, I quickly got out my phone and started checking out their website to see what they were all about. Immediately I recognized their logo: I had seen it as stickers all around Savannah.
Their website said, “We exist to nurture the members of the coastal community engaged in creative or innovative endeavors and cultivating an environment in which they can thrive.” I understood that The Creative Coast helped start-ups develop, but I still didn’t know exactly what I would be doing at work yet.
The rest of orientation was filled with guest speakers, icebreakers, new faces, and handshakes. The amount of energy in everyone that day was surprisingly high: I guess we were excited to start our new jobs the next day.
The first friendly face I met at The Creative Coast was Jenn Atkinson, who immediately made me feel welcome. After meeting the other team members, I felt very comfortable with my position. Kait Lance was especially helpful in assigning me real-life projects, rather than mindless busywork.
I have a theory that I was placed here after I wrote on my application that I was interested in visual arts. I guess someone saw the word “Creative” on The Creative Coast and plopped me here. Turns out that person probably knew what they were doing because I now realize how essential creativity is to business.
1 Million Cups is one of the reasons I always look forward to Wednesdays at work. It is an event held here at The Creator’s Foundry every week to allow entrepreneurs to present their pitch ideas to a friendly audience. The business people get inspired and share ideas with each other, and it is always great to hear everyone’s start-up stories. What’s even better is hearing about their success later on after they have presented here. That is when you truly realize why The Creative Coast exists.
Surprisingly enough, another one of my favorite parts of the week was going to my Friday business mentoring classes at Savannah Technical College: a requirement for all Summer 500 participants. Initially, I was upset that I had to basically go to school every Friday all summer, but after just one class I realized how fun it turned out to be! I made an awesome group of new friends and met a fantastically funny teacher (shout-out to Mr. Solomon in Group 7!), all while learning the soft skills of professional development. These basic skills I learned will definitely be useful for the rest of my career.
As these short nine weeks come to a close, I look back at all the valuable things I’ve done here. My experience was filled with professional meetings, quarterly reports, meeting important people, participating in Ecosystem Lunches, and running errands like delivering reports to Rob Davis downtown. I even attended an Urban Economic Summit on my own to represent The Creative Coast as a vendor. That was pretty scary at first, but I ended up meeting so many cool business people at that event.
Throughout this experience, The Creative Coast has allowed me to learn so many new things about the business world and entrepreneurship. It is a great place for a business internship because you constantly see innovations being made to benefit others. To me, it’s like the hub for start-ups in Savannah, so people are always coming together here to offer advice and input.
Let me just say that I am glad I signed up the Summer 500 Program!
Zoe Elwood is interning with The Creative Coast this summer. She is a senior at Savannah Arts Academy majoring in Visual Arts. The Creative Coast is a non-profit organization that promotes the creative and entrepreneurial community within the region. To learn more about The Creative Coast, visit www.thecreativecoast.org.