More than an Internship
Zorris went to Riverside High School where he was part of the Robotics team. Through this, he had an opportunity to intern at Milwaukee Habitat for Humanity and work to bring safe, affordable housing to Milwaukee families.
Milwaukee Habitat partners with the Argosy Foundation to connect FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics students with construction experience on our build sites.
Students from Riverside High School who participated in their Robotics team, like Zorris, are able to become a construction intern at Milwaukee Habitat for Humanity while they are pursuing further education in STEM.
The internship gives these students the opportunity to learn additional skills in construction while they are likely going to school to study something in a related field.
The interns join the construction team and once they learn the necessary skills, become leaders on the build site – leading volunteers on new construction projects. Through this, they gain leadership skills, technical construction skills, problem solving skills and more. The program is designed so that the interns can take these skills and use them in their future careers.
While working as a construction intern through the program, Zorris went to school for civil engineering. Now, Zorris is using the skills he learned as an intern to build his own life and career in civil engineering.
“Being on site and talking to volunteers who had done this for years, you learn a lot of knowledge,” Zorris said. “[The internship] helped me become familiar with logistics that go into construction and communicate effectively. I learned people skills in general. You learn how to talk to different kinds of people every day from everywhere. Working with Habitat also got me familiar with reading plans and specs that can be intimidating and learn construction jargon. Even though construction isn’t the exact same as what I’m doing, being familiar with the industry itself gave me a heads up.”
Milwaukee Habitat for Humanity currently has two interns through the Habitat/FIRST Robotics program, Ari and Josh. Ari took a semester off school to work as an intern full time but is studying biomedical electronics technology.
“[The internship] helped me develop more interpersonal skills like communication and leadership,” current intern Ari said. “Leading groups gets a bit stressful, but you learn from it. It’s different every day.”
Both current interns agree that the challenges of the internship are helping them learn skills that can help them in the future. Josh is studying electrical engineering at UWM (University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee) with a minor in mathematics.
“In terms of problem solving, you always are going to be faced with a different situation every day. It helps me develop problem solving skills that I can use as an electrical engineer,” Josh said.
Esai, a former intern, received a degree from MATC (Milwaukee Area Technical College) in the STEM field and then built computers before returning to Milwaukee Habitat and joining the construction team.
“The [Habitat/FIRST Robotics] program helped open up the trades for me,” Construction Supervisor Esai said. “I could go out and be a contractor. It’s not as limiting as getting my degree and [saying] that’s it. I can look at my degree, or look at the trades, or a mix of both.”
Not only has the program been beneficial to the interns themselves, but the interns have been an asset to Milwaukee Habitat and the construction team.
“Our [Habitat/FIRST Robotics] interns have been an excellent addition to the construction team, helping us lead volunteers on the build site,” Construction Director Chris Garrison said. “They have come to us with a leadership mindset and have been able to quickly learn the construction skills necessary to accomplish the job.”
Alongside benefiting the team and gaining skills for future careers, the interns play a large role in bringing safe, affordable housing to Milwaukee families.
“[This work] is impactful because I know that the impact will last for generations,” Ari said.
Esai, who left Habitat after his internship and chose to come back, also sees the impact of his work.
“When I was building computers, we were building important things. We were building computers for blood testing. But, it didn’t feel the same,” Esai said. “It felt like with Habitat, I could see the work I was doing every day. You can see progress, a door, a window, a roof. I drove past houses I built and been like ‘I was a part of that.’ That feels nice.”
For Zorris, the impact of his time at Milwaukee Habitat extends into many aspects of his life.
“What hits home for me personally is building wealth and showing something important to the community, [along with] being able to give back to my community and connect with those people,” Zorris said.
The Argosy Foundation is dedicated to keeping the partnership with FIRST Robotics and Milwaukee Habitat for Humanity. They see the bigger picture of what the program does for students and the community and hope that the program can one day be shared nationally.
Zorris, along with the other interns, chose to be part of something larger than themselves by bringing safe housing to Milwaukee and have gained valuable experience while doing so.
“For me, it was being able to know you have an effect on something so permanent,” Zorris said. “It doesn’t have to be something hard to do. Believe in yourself and have an effect on the world. That was eye opening for me. Realizing how effective you can be as a person… It’s not far-fetched. It’s something anyone can do.”
Students in the Milwaukee area who are alum of FIRST robotics or seniors who are participating in FIRST robotics could qualify for this program. Interested students can reach out to the Argosy foundation at firstname.lastname@example.org.