Interns with a Purpose: Fresh Faces Around Houston Airports Strive to Make a Difference

This story was written by Hire Houston Youth Intern Thomas Harris.

Aug. 17, 2017

When most people think of the duties of an intern, their heads are likely filled with images of an inexperienced young person preparing coffee, stapling papers, and retrieving copies. However, a quick glance at the interns spread across Houston Airports this summer reveals a group of potential-filled individuals entrusted with work that matters, and gaining valuable and unique work experience.

Houston’s airports are high-energy environments, span large areas, and feature manifold departments and positions that work together to create a seamless experience for the almost 55 million passenger who pass through them annually. But interns such as Felicia Black, Leah Jones, and Jade Starr are calling these places home for the summer, and have begun to put their best efforts forward to contribute to the airports in a meaningful way.

Black, 22, is spending her time with International Services at George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) under Sr. Superintendent Scott Alexander. 

“A typical day of work for me consists of assisting international flight passengers with the Customs and Border Protection process,” says Black, a senior computer engineering student at Prairie View A&M University.  “What I enjoy most about my internship is the exposure to different cultures and customs of different areas of the world.”

Starr, who is interning with Landside Operations at William P. Hobby Airport (HOU) under Landside Operations Manager Dawn Hoffman is also getting a great look at the airport environment, but in a way that is more removed from the public eye. Her time here includes “reviewing policy for ground transportation, making evaluations and recommendations, and sitting in on meetings with members of the City of Houston Council.”

Starr has interned in a various airport sections and has already spent five years working in the aviation industry, but she believes the experiences here are preparing her for the real world. “I enjoy the flexibility of my internship the most. Some days I assist in management, other days I shadow Airside Operations. I really like being able to sit in and explore different departments,” Starr said.

Aside from the essential daily interactions and operations that take place across Houston Airports, there are long-term goals and developing projects that interns get to help out with. That’s where Jones comes in, who is getting to work in the Infrastructure- Planning Design and Construction Department.

“My specific job duties are primarily to help in the redevelopment of Terminal A. I am also assisting in developing a kids play area in one of the terminals,” said Jones. These are no small tasks, and show the capability and potential of the talented interns.

With each department an intern gets to experience, comes a myriad of unique takeaways. “What I enjoy most is my exposure to different cultures and customs of different areas of the world,” said Black of her experience in International Services. While Starr said, “I feel like I am making an impact in the regulatory process here at HOU.”

“The Houston Airport System has been a proud supporter of Mayor Turner's Hire Houston Youth program since its inception last year, and we have seen the growth of the program and the interns that came through and returned to the airport. ,” said Houston Airports Assistant Director Justina Mann who helps manage the program. “We had a great group of interns who worked on meaningful projects that I hope will continue to help them as they make decisions about their career paths and possibly bring them back to the airport system.”

There is one common trait that seems to be a part of the experiences had by all of the interns, and that is that those who work with these interns have been instrumental in making their time here as beneficial, transparent, and productive as possible. “What I enjoy most about my internship is that I am working with and surrounded by a great team of individuals. They are open to help and answer questions, everyone is friendly and pleasant to be around. It makes working in the administration building a pleasant environment to be in,” said Jones.

What is most important to note is that the work these interns are doing matters. Not only does it help to give to Houston’s young adults, but the airport system is gaining the help of dedicated, hard workers who bring a fresh perspective to multiple facets of the airport system. This program is just another great example of how working together, and dedicating ourselves to the success and understanding of those around us, can bring countless positives to light.