Not a lot of high school students get the chance to find out firsthand where their water comes from and what goes into making it safe.Natalie Hada and Esequiel Ventura got to go even further – by becoming a part of the process that brings water to Arlington taps.The two, who graduated Arlington High School in June 2016, have spent much of the past year as interns in the Arlington Water Utilities Department. For 19 hours a week, they worked and learned in various water divisions, from the laboratory to field operations to meter services. They also had the opportunity to obtain their Class D Water Operator License from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.“It’s honestly one of the best decisions I made in high school,” said Hada, who is currently finishing up her internship at the laboratory services division at the Pierce-Burch Water Treatment Plant. “Not a lot of people my age have the opportunity to work in a water treatment plant. I thought that was pretty cool.”Testing water for bacteria and turbidity isn’t on the minds of most high school seniors, but Ventura said he enjoyed learning the steps that make drinking water safe. After graduation, Ventura started a part time position as an apprentice service worker. Replacing water meters and investigates leaks makes him feel like he’s doing his part to keep Arlington going strong.“I’ve been living here my whole life and I feel like, ‘Wow, I’m part of the city now. I’m helping them,’” he said.
Both Ventura and Hada hope to start taking classes at Tarrant County College in 2017.Tony Young, an analyst in the laboratory who has headed up the Water Department’s internship program for the past three years, said part of the program’s purpose is to show students the opportunities that the City of Arlington has to offer. The program works through Arlington High School’s career and technical education class. It reaches students who are planning to go straight to college and those who may not have considered continuing to college.“We are trying really hard to make sure these interns stick around, if not in the water department, then somewhere in the city. We want to keep the talent we’ve trained,” said Young.Joel Florentino is another of the internship program’s success stories. He graduated from Arlington High School in June 2015 and has been working as a sampler at the lab for about a year. He said seeing what a career in water utilities has to offer gives him added motivation to achieve.“I don’t just want a job. I want a career. That’s what I hope to make out of it,” he said.