A former Student Ambassador, Malik Figaro was News Decoder’s first intern from a partner school. Here are lessons he has drawn in his gap year.

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Malik Figaro, News Decoder’s most recent intern, was nervous before he decided to take a year off between high school and university. It would be his first year away from school since he was four years old, and how would he make good use of his time?

After a four-month stint at News Decoder, Figaro has seen the inner workings of a not-for-profit startup, juggled myriad responsibilities and learned time-management skills that will serve him well when he starts college next year and beyond.

“Given multiple projects at once, it can be difficult to determine how much time should be allocated to each project. I definitely struggled with this balance,” said Figaro, News Decoder’s eighth intern. “I learned some valuable lessons about managing multiple projects at once, and I’ll definitely take these reflections with me when I head to college next year.”

Figaro was the first intern to come from one of News Decoder’s partner schools, in his case Friends Seminary in New York, where he served as a Student Ambassador for our non-profit. Like two earlier interns, Jasmine Horsey and Dylan Carlson-Sirvent, Figaro has been accepted into Yale, where he intends to start his studies next year after his gap year.

Malik Figaro was a Student Ambassador before becoming an intern.

Like many young people, Figaro decided to take a gap-year due to COVID-19, which has disrupted studies at many schools and universities. “I’ve been attending school every year since I was 4, so when I made the difficult decision to take a gap year due to the pandemic, I worried about taking responsibility for all the time I’d have,” he said.

Working remotely from his home in the Bronx, a borough of New York City, Figaro designed pages for News Decoder’s new website (learning some CSS coding in the process), created videos and graphics and identified potential academic partners for the educational news service around the world.

“Right now, I am writing an article on mutual aid funds in America which I hope to publish on the site,” he said, touching on one of his key interests — income equality.

“I am always thinking about the ways low-income students face many disadvantages in school compared to wealthier students,” he said. “News Decoder could start a program that provides journalism education and opportunities to publish work for low-income students, and I would love to help facilitate that process to get them there.”

That’s the kind of thinking that sets News Decoder apart!

Being a Student Ambassador whetted his appetite for News Decoder.

I asked Figaro some questions about his time at News Decoder.

ND: What led you to choose News Decoder for your internship?

Figaro: I read the job description of News Decoder’s intern position and instantly I was interested. This was a great opportunity to develop new skills in all areas, challenge myself in a new environment and, most importantly, enjoy the work I’d be involved in. My experience with News Decoder as a Student Ambassador was also a really big component to my interest in the position. I remember very clearly how thoughtful and hard-working the staff had been when working with our webinar team. Although we were stressed about college and other school commitments, the News Decoder team led us every step of the way to make sure we’d learn about the webinar process and make the most out of the experience. I really admired their ability to coordinate a webinar with schools around the world, and saw this internship as the perfect way to learn what it takes to run News Decoder.

ND:  What were your responsibilities as an intern?

Figaro: I really got to experience a little bit of everything. I started out by creating visual content such as promotional videos and graphic designs for the new website. I designed pages and layouts for News Decoder’s new website, which was interesting because I had to learn some CSS coding. I researched schools around the world that emphasized global education and could become potential partner schools with News Decoder. Right now, I am writing an article on mutual aid funds in America which I hope to publish on the site.

ND: What was the best part of the work you were doing?

Figaro: TV culture and social media frequently depict the workplace as an intense and dreadful place for employees. Although I was excited to join the News Decoder team, I was anxious because this would be my very first internship. All fears subsided when I came on the Zoom call the first day; the team welcomed me with very open arms. They always asked for my input and made sure I understood how to complete my tasks. Though I faced many challenges, there was always someone on the team who I could talk to for feedback and advice. Working with the News Decoder team has been one of my highlights. I’ve learned so much from them, and I am really glad I got the chance to know each one of them.

How about opportunities for low-income students?

ND: What would you have liked to do, or do you think could be done differently?

Figaro: I wish I had approached my article differently. One of the things I quickly learned through this internship is that time management is crucial. Given multiple projects at once, it can be difficult to determine how much time should be allocated to each project. I definitely struggled with this balance, and didn’t give my article much thought until the last few weeks. I learned some valuable lessons about managing multiple projects at once, and I’ll definitely take these reflections with me when I head to college next year.

ND: Would you consider coming back to News Decoder in the future, and in what capacity?

Figaro: I would love to come back to News Decoder! With experience in social media, I could definitely see myself helping the team with outreach, building more relationships with schools around the world and creating more graphic designs for the website. One issue I am particularly passionate about is income equality, and I am always thinking about the ways low-income students face many disadvantages in school compared to wealthier students. News Decoder could start a program that provides journalism education and opportunities to publish work for low-income students, and I would love to help facilitate that process to get them there.

ND: Do you see things differently now, having done the internship, than when you were a Student Ambassador? What should Student Ambassadors know that they might not know?

Figaro: My whole perception of News Decoder has changed, switching roles from Student Ambassador to intern. As a high school student, I had to juggle many different activities, and News Decoder was always one of those many things I was interested in, so I didn’t get to delve deep as I would have liked into the work and the mission. As an intern, I now truly understand News Decoder’s role in a global context and their mission, and I regret not getting more involved as a Student Ambassador. If I had to give advice to Student Ambassadors, I would emphasize that Student Ambassadors are the bridge between News Decoder and the students at their school, and have a direct impact on student engagement. Get as many people from your school involved. If a topic is important for you and you have many people to talk to about it, don’t be afraid to submit a pitch. Submit an entry to the yearly contests!

ND: What do you think people outside the News Decoder community should know about News Decoder?

Figaro: News Decoder puts a lot of thought into trustworthy reporting, and besides the many correspondents with many years of experience who have their stories published, News Decoder provides young students from around the world a chance to learn how to report and publish a story. Supporting News Decoder is also supporting the next generation of journalists. Get involved by subscribing to the newsletter or donating!

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Tendayi Chirawu is News Decoder’s Communications and School Engagement Manager. A citizen of Zimbabwe, Zambia and Namibia, she has a masters degree in Global Communication & Civil Society from the American University of Paris. She joined News Decoder in July and has experience working for non-profit and for-profit organizations in Africa, Asia and Europe. Chirawu is a published author and has written for international news publications.

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Friends Seminary Malik Figaro: From Student Ambassador to News Decoder intern