How the first-ever UCLA Health Marketing and Communications high school internship went

'We’ve created an entryway into a big organization that can be difficult to access.'

Photo: The first-ever UCLA Health Marketing and Communications high school internship, held from July 12 to Aug. 6, 2021, offered students a glimpse into the creative departments in health care, such as graphic design, copywriting, marketing, filmmaking, content writing, media relations, government relations and strategy. (Handout photo: UCLA Health)

The events of 2020 – a global pandemic, protests against racial and ethnic injustices, and economic and environmental inequality – inspired overdue conversations about our society from individuals to businesses and organizations.

For a sub-committee tackling issues on health equity, diversity and inclusion within the Marketing and Communications Department at UCLA Health, it sparked a conversation about economic opportunity and access.

From that conversation came the first-ever Marketing and Communications High School Summer Internship, created and organized by Nick Carranza with support by Shonda Peterson, Julia Gottlieb and Jonah Ansell, marketing employees who share a passion for mentorship, social justice and community advocacy.

“We’ve created an entryway into a big organization that can be difficult to access,” says Peterson, a program lead at UCLA Health. “We’re pleased to have removed barriers of entry for the interns.”

The paid, four-week virtual internship, held from July 12 to Aug. 6, 2021, was offered to high school students from historically excluded areas who hold a 2.0 grade point average or higher. Two interns were selected out of 165 applicants from 35 schools within Los Angeles County.

Peterson says the goals in creating this internship were to open access to UCLA Health to students in South and East Los Angeles, develop for them new career pathways within health care marketing and communications and get the interns’ perspectives on real world issues in health care.

Many students are unfamiliar with allied health jobs and unaware that a future career in health care is possible without a background in science or medicine. Carranza and Peterson sought to share with students of varying backgrounds, skillsets and abilities that despite where they come from, a career at UCLA Health is attainable.

“It’s been a dream of mine to create a program like this,” says Carranza, senior content marketing strategist at UCLA Health.

A mentorship program called Year Up that Carranza worked for in Boston showed the value mentorship can bring to adolescents from backgrounds that lack economic prosperity and career advancement.

“I had the opportunity to mentor 18- to 24-year-olds, and during that time I experienced so much personal growth,” Carranza says.

He learned that sharing his story was an important part of building trust with the mentees.

“I always struggled with my own story and life circumstances and I was always told not to bring that kind of stuff into the workplace,” Carranza says. “I was told to separate personal life from professional – but this is part of your DNA and telling your story actually helps you become a better mentor.”

He sought to create an opportunity for students that invited them to be their authentic selves and focused on personal and professional growth.

“Typically, in an internship program the question is – what can interns do for us? It was the reverse for this program,” he says. “This program is about what we can do for them.”

A place for everyone

The internship offered students a glimpse into the creative departments in health care, such as graphic design, copywriting, marketing, filmmaking, content writing, media relations, government relations and strategy.

It also included insight into solving real challenges faced in the health system, from combating medical misinformation to the importance of diversity, equity and inclusion through visual storytelling.

“We aimed to provide an immersive, well-rounded experience,” Carranza says.

“The UCLA Health team gave me hope that I could succeed after graduating college as an art major,” says Morgan Newson, intern and graduating senior from the Inglewood area.

Newson, whose passions are art and photography, says it didn’t occur to her that it was possible to work in fields outside of her designated major. This internship helped reframe her perspective.

“I think that UCLA Health has a place for everyone, whether you are interested in photography, marketing, art or law,” she says. “This department provides a safe space for your creative work and allows you to make life-long connections that can impact who you become.”

Yasmeen Yanez, intern and incoming high school senior from the Lincoln Heights area, says a big takeaway for her was the storytelling element to marketing and communications work. For instance, the interns worked with the content team to write and produce a story about nutrition myths versus facts.

“I learned that having a broader scope on different subjects and how it all intertwines with our world is important,” Yanez says. “This program really teaches you to always be present and prepared. They care about sharing their story to inspire people like myself, a high school student.”

This was exactly the experience Carranza was looking to create.

“Midway through the program I realized that I was actually creating this experience for my 16-year-old self. I needed someone to let me know that despite my hardships, there were still opportunities for me, that I could get to UCLA my own way,” Carranza says. “I needed someone to open up their network and just say, ‘Hey, I know someone that can help you out, let me connect you.’”

He says the ability to network puts young people “light-years ahead” when it comes to pursuing the careers of their choice.

The interns met with more than 30 members of the Marketing and Communications Department with varying backgrounds and roles. They also met with leaders in the organization, which can be rare in traditional internships.

Peterson says the internship exceeded her expectations and allowed the department to bond in a way they hadn’t since the onset of the pandemic.

“I think we've set a precedent for what can happen when you collaborate with your colleagues around something that becomes bigger than the work itself,” she says. “It allows you to bond in a whole different way in the workplace.”

Guest speakers were included in the programming. Students met with leaders of UCLA Health community organizations, Kiesha Nix of the Lakers Youth Foundation and Nichol Whiteman of the Los Angeles Dodgers Foundation.

“The role models that we were able to expose them to not only at UCLA, but outside of our organization, definitely evoked a lot of emotion,” Carranza says.

The internship showed students the many ways health care heals communities, he says.

“UCLA provided resources for one of my family members who had a battle with cancer,” Newson says. “Applying to this internship allowed me to pay it forward in a way.”

The UCLA Health Marketing and Communications Department plans to expand the program next summer. Details can be found here.