We're excited to continue highlighting some of our new colleagues who have recently joined our team. Meet Z Makila, a proud Step Up Youth Employment Program alum who has come full circle to serve Step Up participants as our youth services assistant.
Z provides vital support to students as they begin their participation in Step Up, complete their work readiness training, get matched with summer career opportunities and navigate employer onboarding.
We asked Z to share some insights into their life as a young student, their favorite memories from school and what they enjoy about working at AchieveMpls:
What was some good advice you were given as a young person that changed your life?
My dad telling me that it’s okay to be “weird.” With less pressure to conform, I found deep, lasting friendships that I still maintain to this day with other “weird” kids. really helped me find my footing as a young person in a big wide open world. I also learned that "normal" doesn't actually exist and that bridging our differences is what makes being a human amazing!
What is one of your best memories from your early school years?
In my fourth grade classroom we had a substitute teacher who asked if we knew what an avalanche was. The entire class responded in synch with our vocab chant for the word avalanche: “A huge ball of SNOW…and ICE…SLIDING DOWN THE MOUNTAIN!” complete with hand motions back and forth. The substitute teacher was laughing so hard because we caught him off guard!
Who was your favorite teacher or school staff person and why?
My favorite teacher ever was my 4th grade teacher, Mrs. Basant, at the FAIR School in Crystal. She was the first teacher who always made sure that our classroom routines were fun and exciting. From listening to the music of Earth, Wind & Fire at the end of the day, to practicing our vocabulary chants, to her read-aloud sessions packed with character voices and theatrical performance, every little detail was always accompanied with something interesting that made everyone excited to learn.
What activities did you participate in during your high school years?
The first thing that pulled me in was theater, which began for me in middle school, but became a much bigger part of my identity in high school. I also played the viola and was in both the Greater Twin Cities Youth Symphonies and the University of Minnesota’s Symphony Orchestra while in high school.
Tell us about your experience as a Step Up intern. What was that like and what did you love most about it?
I was first placed as a Step Up intern the summer after my freshman year in high school. This experience really catapulted my young career, because the next summer I got a position with Minneapolis Community Education’s Super Summer Program at Southwest High School. I worked there for many years and did so many things, serving as a classroom aide, then as a teacher, then as an office aide, and then as their Health, Inclusion and Behavior Lead. At some point, I was asked to stage manage for a community education theater production, which was such a amazing opportunity to bring theater back into my life (and on a professional level)! I still serve as a stage manager today.
If you could have lunch with any person, dead or living, who would it be and why?
I’d enjoy eating with Gordon Ramsay, even if he’s not cooking the meal. He has such a high standard for food so I just know it would be delicious. I'd love to pick his brain about how to keep food (and eating) exciting when you have limited time and interest in cooking. And since we share a birthday, I'd assume we'd have plenty to talk about to that end, too.
What do you like most about working at AchieveMpls (so far)?
I’ve worked here for a few weeks now and I already feel so welcomed and encouraged in my job. Everyone around me – my coworkers, young people and their families, school staff and our program partners – has been so kind and fun to be around. I also love knowing that I’m doing work that ensures that many more young people will have a rocking summer experience just like I did as a Step Up intern in 2011!