Three weeks into her first-ever internship, Lilian Nwaneto had a revelation. “I never thought that work could actually be fun,” she said. “I look forward to waking up everyday, and it’s like, ‘Oh my God, I have work today. Yay!”
During the summer of 2017, Lilian worked as an intern at Blair Labeling, Inc. The company – a family-owned, woman-owned and minority-owned business in Far Northeast Denver – took on Lilian as their first intern as a way of giving back to the community.
The first way they gave back? It happened at lunch on Lilian’s first day.
“I was in a hurry to get to work, and I forgot to bring food for lunch. When everybody was sitting around eating, I didn’t have anything. Before I knew it everyone was giving me something from their lunch so that I could have lunch,” she said. “It was like I was part of their family.”
While Lilian’s internship at Blair taught her a lot about the high-tech industry of labeling – from the importance of checking for errors to ensuring every shipment is perfect – she says it taught her more about the expectations a company puts on their employees.
“This has helped me experience hands-on work, which isn’t something you get to experience staying at home or staying at school,” she said. “When you roll up labels, you know that what you’re doing, that’s what customers are going to see. It made me feel very mature.”
For Blair Labeling COO Christian De La Vega, the choice to bring on an intern wasn’t an easy one. “It’s a very old industry, and people are aging out of it,” De La Vega said. “I was a little worried and thought, ‘What if the intern gets bored? This is printing.’”
Lilian’s enthusiasm about the internship – and all of the tasks they gave her – proved the Blair Labeling staff wrong almost immediately.
“She was always wanting to learn more, asking correct questions, always striving to be better,” he said. “She taught me to look at myself and reevaluate my goals in life.”
For Lilian, the internship taught her that hard work can only get you as far as the opportunities offered to you.
“You get to pick a place where you actually believe that you belong. So I think…that’s amazing,” she said.
She credits Blair Labeling – and their willingness to open their doors to an intern – as the reason she will keep pursuing her dreams of becoming a biomedical engineer.
“We believe in paying it forward,” said De La Vega. “This is a great way to give back to the community and the country, and basically the future workforce.”