C.I.A. visits East as part of Lunch & Learn program

The typically quiet community room bustled; the bumble of conversation spread across the array of tables. Students filled the glass-walled room with anticipation of not just pizza, but opportunities; the opportunity to discover. Thursday, September 26th marked the CIA’s first of two visits to East in their new partnership with the school, serving as a kick off to the four student Lunch and Learns being hosted this year.

East recently began a rather exclusive partnership with the CIA following some collaboration between english teacher Rebecca Nelson, the CIA, Assistant Principal Julie Lam, and several other members of admin. Nelson had attracted the CIA to East after having met a CIA regional director at an NSHSS conference, and then meeting a couple other agents at a similar event, whom offered the partnership to Nelson, at the end of 2017. Nelson said she thought the program would be a great addition to East.

“The reason why I wanted to see this program come to OE was because of the potential scholarships and internships for … students once they are in college,” Nelson said. “There are many outstanding students … who demonstrate intellect and talents and language skills that the CIA could potentially look to for hiring since the organization recruits for an extremely wide scope of careers.”

Lam, in charge of the school organized activities, was primarily in charge of organizing the event and hoped the CIA would give the previously weak Lunch and Learns the boost they needed in student attendance.

“Student Lunch and Learns were actually new last year… and we didn’t have that big of a turn out … so this year we really wanted to push it and expand the offerings … so we made sure everyone knew about them and what was going on,” Lam added.

The full room was graced with free pizza to snack on while the CIA presented the bones and ligaments of their internship and career body, which include graduate programs that employ students to be employed at the CIA headquarters doing work in the field of their major. The range of majors is extensive and covers from political sciences, to finance, to chemistry. Lam expressed pleasure with the student outcome for the CIA’s first visit.

“Last year we only had two student lunch and learns, and I think our total attendance across both was about seventy students,” Lam said. “Just this period we had about 70 kids, and fourth hour had 55 attend. The growth is significant over last year.”

The student attendance was plentiful. Throughout the meeting, most students indicated a teacher had told them about the Lunch and Learn. Junior Alexis Guzman said finding out about the event through her teachers was enticing, and being told about it encouraged her to go.

“I was generally curious about how people get into the CIA, and what kind of things they have to offer to students since paths after high school can be murky, it’s nice to have another plausible career path to consider,” Guzman said.

The CIA only visits 31 schools across the country in this manner, which is exclusive to the schools which they have this partnership with. East joined that list just this year with two headquarter agents visiting students to present scholarship and career opportunities offered by the CIA. One of those agents, who was originally involved from first communications, was rather integral in getting the rarely-recruited-for program here at East.

“Because Mrs. Nelson reached out to me specifically how she did, I felt compelled to get [Oswego East] in our program, so I ran it up the management chain and here we are,” CIA Agent Domonique B. said.

The primary program they promote is their undergraduate internship program, which provides students with not only up to eighteen-thousand dollars in tuition reimbursement, but a starting salary of nearly $30 thousand a year. Guzman said the compensation makes the program much more enticing, with college tuition and living costs looming larger each coming year.

“The fact that [the CIA] offers so much money in salary and benefits definitely makes me more likely to consider the program moving forward since college is so expensive to look at, so it’s definitely a more secure option if I need it,” Guzman stated.

The internships offered by the CIA can, and often do, lead to careers and full time jobs within the organization. Although this is the goal of the program, the event and partnership is aimed towards giving students more insight to the possibilities and options they have post high school. The CIA, for instance, offers help with interviewing skills and job applications to the students at the schools with which they partner. For Senior Kristina Vesta, the extra help offered serves well to her post high school plans to join the FBI.

“The CIA works more internationally than the FBI and traveling a lot and far isn’t something that necessarily interests me [but the extra help] is a pretty neat and helpful opportunity that I will consider even though I would probably be applying those skills to the FBI instead,” Vesta said.

Not all students went for academic or career purposes. Yet, the goals of the student Lunch and Learns, and CIA alike, still shone through. The presentation about the wide range of areas of work within the CIA managed to captivate all the students present, even whilst competing with pizza and friends. Senior Kevin Thul said although initially  he only went for the pizza and to see his friends, he found himself intrigued in the opportunities presented by the CIA.

“I found out [about the Lunch and Learn] through my teachers and I would definitely attend another. I loved the whole experience,” Thul said.

The next CIA visit will take place on an unspecified date during the second semester, likely to include a follow up on student resume and interview skills. Meanwhile, the next Lunch and Learn will host Advanced Placement for students and teachers alike, in an effort to increase interest and enrollment on November 1st.

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