Training Tomorrow’s Leaders: High School Team Wins at Capital One/NAF Internship Lab

Winning team of interns in front row (holding prize backpacks): Daniel Uribe, Andrew Mondoza, Citlali Mendiola, Kassandra Morales, and Jaslyn Flores (Photo provided)

Twenty students were chosen this summer from the Dallas Independent School District (ISD) to complete a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for career readiness—and it was also the first of its kind.

Capital One partnered with NAF and the University of Texas at Dallas (UTD) to give high school students both a career prep learning lab and a paid internship with Capital One, called the NAF Future Ready Lab. The pilot program has just concluded, and the first-ever winning team was selected on June 30.

Four teams of five students from within the nearly 50 academies at Dallas ISD worked together on a business problem that Capital One presented as a prompt. The students worked over three weeks on a real-life solution around a large Capital One sponsorship.

The teams integrated Capital One’s Future Edge initiative into their final presentations before a judge panel on June 30 at Capital One’s innovation center, The Garage.

“At the end of the day, we get a customer for the product, so they’re developing their own product,” said Monica Shortino, Capital One Senior Manager, Social Innovations. “They’ll be the beneficiaries of whatever they create.”

The students learned to develop ready-to-execute concepts for a community event that Capital One would organize in the local market. Event categories included: transportation for the future, partnering technology with architecture for public spaces, envisioning new solutions to community challenges, and bringing to life the magic of cinema.

The students asked questions like “how can we give back to the community?” and “how can associates get involved?” and assembled an event proposal. They spent time at both Capital One and UTD’s campus for three weeks, as they met with professional mentors from within Capital One, experts in event management, public relations, social media, marketing, finance and technology.

Brooke Rice, director of Future Ready Labs, watched these students transform not only professionally, but relationally too.

“They’re better presenters. They’re more introspective and reflective. They help each other,” Rice said. “What you didn’t see before the presentations today was how much work and research went into them. They made phone calls to other businesses and learned to be professional in phone presence. They critiqued each other in a reflective process.”

The teams had to present event ideas complete with marketing and branding plans, an event agenda, a budget, a press release, flyer prototypes, event space floor plans, transportation logistics, a list of sponsors and provisions for volunteers.

The winning team presented a project titled CarCase, a car show featuring driver-assisted vehicles. Their proposed event included a full-on carshow and test ride opportunities for a community looking for “that perfect vehicle.” The judges found the assembly of data, along with the smooth delivery of the presentation itself, impressive.

The team all expressed genuine surprise at being selected to win, which smoothed over into fulfilment later.

“We all came from different schools and really didn’t know each other at the beginning,” said Andrew Mondoza, who studies finance. “But as we started talking and got our project planned, we realized that we all had ideas and could help as a team to create a project and make it a good one. After the three weeks was up, we really created a bond that could be seen when we started presenting our project to the panelists.”

Daniel Uribe, who studies engineering, demonstrated how strong that bond really was, along with a new perspective on the competition.

“Even if our group hadn’t won, we would have been just as happy,” Uribe said. “In each one of these groups, there’s at least one student that comes from one of the schools we are from. So we feel like, in a way, we all feel like we’re representing our schools, no matter who won. It’s still showing a piece of us.”

Uribe said that he hadn’t been sure of what exactly he could contribute in the environment with the Future Ready Lab, where other areas such as finance and hospitality converged. But after working with the team for three weeks and ultimately winning with them, he learned the deeper value of the feedback and shared experience.

“I’ve learned there’s always more you can do, and there’s always more you can learn.”