Senior begins internship through STEP-UP

Kenya Brooks reflects on professional experience


Used with permission from Nilabh Narayan

Birds-eye view of the Hennepin County Recovery Center located in Minneapolis. Target Field is located near the center.

Nicole Sanford

When talking about her experience as an intern at Hennepin Energy Recovery Center, senior Kenya Brooks said she gained professional skills that will prove valuable in the future.

“I’ve learned how to speak and talk, I had a problem with verbal communication, and that’s why with this job, a lot of the time I’ve had to bring what I’ve done for the day and go and talk to my boss and give him a presentation of what I’ve accomplished,” Brooks said. “I’ve learned how to write professional emails, and I’ve learned how to type professional papers.”

According to Brooks, she found the internship through STEP-UP, a program that helps young people find paid internship opportunities.

“(STEP-UP is) a company that provides summer jobs for students,” Brooks said. “It’s company jobs — they want the students to be able to work in companies and get a feel for how the business world works. So STEP-UP kind of teamed up with these companies, and they offered us intern jobs with these big companies.”

Hennepin County facility operations manager and mechanical engineer Nilabh Narayan said he works at the Hennepin Energy Recovery Center (HERC) and hired Brooks as an intern.

“(HERC) is the place where we bring all of the cities and surrounding suburbs between Hennepin County, their garbage, and we try to burn it, and we generate electricity and steam from that,” Narayan said.

According to Narayan, Brooks’ internship primarily consists of translating manual documents to electronic files.

“(Brooks) is a STEP-UP intern, and normally they do it only for one summer, but we have a lot of old drawings and manuals from various plant equipment that are in our library or in storage areas,” Narayan said. “We are in the process of scanning them, converting them into media files and uploading them into electronic storage devices. That way we can find those files in the future.”

In addition to performing technical skills, Brooks said this internship has given her insight on what professional attire looks like.

“I just feel like I’ve learned how to dress business casual because at first I didn’t know what they expected of me, like what was I supposed to wear,” Brooks said. “They just gave me the walk through of what they expect of me and what they expect me to wear at a business place like this.”

Narayan said Brooks exhibits a reliable work ethic and adds to the company.

“It’s been a real pleasure working with her,” Narayan said. “She’s a very smart kid, very motivated about what she has to do, and once you have explained things to her, she can do her work quite nicely.”

According to Brooks, internships such as this can give students a head start in considering their future plans.

“A lot of people want to be things in the future like CEOs (and) entrepreneurs, doctors and surgeons and all of that stuff, (and) there’s actually companies out here that will let you intern and see what you want to do,” Brooks said. “You could get ahead of the next student or two, and you’ll have kind of an idea of what you want to do when you go to college.”

Narayan said internships give young students the opportunity to experience the tenants of a professional job.

“It’s basically a learning opportunity, and we want people to get familiar with the workplace because (there’s) always some mistakes made — they have to learn how to correct from mistakes and have to learn how to talk to people about what they’re doing,” Narayan said.

Brooks said she encourages students to explore local internship opportunities.

“I recommend that a lot of students underclassmen take advantage of the internships,” Brooks said. “They need to branch out and just kind of see what companies around them are offering internships.”

For more information on STEP-UP or other job opportunities, visit or contact Kara Mueller.