Unconventional Internship Helps MBA Student Build Mentorship Skills

April 07, 2011

Last spring, Carlos Silveti Camargo, a second-year MBA student at Georgetown’s McDonough School of Business, was looking for an internship for the upcoming summer. Already having a strong background in finance, he felt he had learned enough technical skills. Instead, he wanted something different than a typical office experience. An international student from Mexico, Camargo was looking to develop his English public speaking abilities and wanted to enhance his leadership and mentoring skills, so he went outside the typical internship channels. 

Camargo applied through Idealist.org, a website that helps individuals connect with non-profit agencies seeking employees, for an unpaid position with Heads Up, an organization that tutors and mentors children in elementary schools of underserved communities located in Southeast Washington, D.C. He eventually landed a position tasked with improving the students’ math and reading skills.

The children lived in very tough neighborhoods, and even at a young age most of them had developed an aggressive attitude to protect themselves, some even carrying weapons. “In these communities it is common to find children dropping out of school, smoking pot, and drinking alcohol in the streets. The saddest cases are students who even try to commit suicide,” said Camargo.  He found it challenging to mentor the children, because he “had to design strategies to motivate them and solve conflicts without violence.” 

During his time, ‘Mr. Carlos,’ as he was known to the children, took them on field trips around the city, including a visit to Georgetown’s McDonough School of Business. “They now wanted to motivate their neighbors to stay away from drugs and crime, as well as practice sports and have the ambition to study in a university someday.” 

Camargo’s background helped him succeed as well – growing up in Mexico City built a hard character not dissimilar to the students in the program. However, Camargo recommends the experience to any business student looking to gain more than technical skills. “Learning how to motivate children that have few incentives in life made me more skilled to motivate employees that have a lot of incentives in a firm.”

At the end of the summer, Camargo received the President’s Volunteer Service Award from the White House in recognition of his volunteer service to the community. He considers the award one of the greatest honors of his life.  He said the experience made him grow in amazing and unexpected ways. 

“All children are extremely perceptive to a teacher’s attitude, just as employees are very perceptive to a manager’s attitude,” said Camargo. “All of us are capable of contributing positively to the community around us. We only have to be willing to use our knowledge and skills to do so.”