Electronics Recycling Center Internship Program Provides Opportunity

Electronics Recycling Center Internship Program Provides Opportunity

The University of San Diego’s Electronics Recycling Center states that it is a non-profit collection space that specializes in extending the useful life of donated electronics to reuse, repurpose, resell, reimagine, and as a last resort, responsibly recycle.


Since late February, the center has also been a foundational learning space for six young people — one a college graduate and the other five being high school senior interns — a chance to broaden their individual skills set and gain experience in the sustainability field that can potentially help them transition in future career opportunities.

Two years after graduating from San Diego State with a degree in recreation administration that emphasized sustainability, Nicky Kullback, serving as an AmeriCorps Climate Corps Fellow, was hired by the ERC in a mentoring and guidance capacity to oversee high school student interns this past spring.

She worked with five seniors from King-Chavez High School, located in downtown San Diego — Jose Garcia, Jose Luis Escobedo, Jonathan Baza, Noel Rodelo and Hector Del Castillo. It was Kullback’s job to work with students to give them opportunities to assist the ERC staff with various tasks. The students were at the ERC, located at 5330 Linda Vista Road, four times a week for three-hour shifts.

Kullback said the five students rotated between four different areas of the ERC. The stations were: the front desk to gain customer service experience and they were able to help other employees translate whenever a Spanish-speaking customer appeared; the computer lab where they worked on donated computers to determine if they could be fixed by taking them apart and rebuilding them or if it was just good for the parts and still salvageable; working in the back warehouse to tackle small tasks or sorting items; and an area where they could test items that had been brought in to determine their reusable value.

“I feel it was a great experience for the high school students,” said Arthur Atkinson IV, ERC supervisor, of this first-time opportunity that could continue in the near future. “I think they were expecting to get the hands-on experience that they did get, but I think they got a lot more, too.”

The ERC’s assistant supervisor of inventory and recycling, Matthew Dahlman, said he enjoyed the chance to work with the students. “I wanted to make sure the time they spent here wasn’t going to be wasted. I was pleasantly surprised at how fast they learned it all.”

One bonus for the students came once a week when they were given the opportunity to collect old items and try to build a working computer themselves.  In addition to the skills they learned, a bond developed between Kullback and the students.

“I saw a lot of social improvements in each of them,” Kullback said. “When they first arrived, they were shy and timid, but as time wore on, they gained more confidence in themselves. I learned a lot about their families, hobbies and more. It was a lot of fun being with them.”

Kullback’s guidance included taking the students a tour of the USD campus, discussing with them options such as community college, showing them what they’d need to know about financial aid and learning about academic programs such as computer science and engineering. Kullback also showed support by attending an exhibition event and a youth entrepreneurial program. One intern, Noel Rodelo, gave a presentation for a business plan he’d created and wound up finishing second.

“I was so proud of him. He even gave me a shout-out as a mentor,” Kullback recalled.

The students then went back to King-Chavez High, graduated this past month, and Kullback said two of the students are already enrolled at local community colleges.

Dahlman said all five students recently returned to the ERC to say hello and, again, thank the ERC staff again for the experience they were provided. “For them to do that spoke volumes as to what it meant.”

Kullback, who will be with the ERC in her AmeriCorps role until mid-August, said working with the internship program has widened her eyes to the possibility of a career path that can go beyond just sustainability. Maybe a mix of sustainability and leadership? “Education wasn’t on my radar as a career before, but it’s 100 percent on my radar now.”

— Ryan T. Blystone

Learn more about USD’s sustainability efforts through its Office of Sustainability website.

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