Mayor Rawlings looks to grow high school internship program

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Citing the benefits to both students and the business community, Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings urged local business leaders to help expand a program that provides paid internships to high school students.

Since its inception in 2008, the Mayor’s Intern Fellows program has provided summer internships to 1,048 students in such fields as healthcare, law, engineering, and the non-profit sector. While the program, which is open to high school students who attend Dallas ISD and public charter schools, provided 300 internships last summer, Rawlings set a goal of 400 student internships for the upcoming summer.

“Businesses ask me all the time, how can I help?” Rawlings said at the program’s kick off event on Feb. 26. “This is how you can help: Sign up for this, you’ll make a difference for the city and a difference for a young person’s life.”

Dallas ISD Superintendent Mike Miles joined Rawlings at the Intern Fellows kickoff that featured dozens of employers that have provided internships. Miles said the program is critical in helping raise expectations of students, as a student who interviews for an internship and gets exposure to the working world gains a better of understanding of what is expected of them. Miles said raising student expectations, having an effective teacher in every classroom, and effective leadership in every school are key to improving any school.

Dallas ISD Superintendent Mike Miles called the Mayor's Intern Fellows is a critical tool to raise student expectations.

Dallas ISD Superintendent Mike Miles called the Mayor’s Intern Fellows is a critical tool to raise student expectations.

The district last year invested $100,000 to fund 27 interns and this year invested $140,000 to fund 45 interns. The district plans to invest $200,000 to fund more than 50 interns next summer.

“If we can expand this program, it is an essential part of what we are trying to do to help improve schools,” Miles said.

In his speech, Rawlings said the internships provide a life changing experience to students as it introduces them to real world careers. Meanwhile, bringing in promising young talent positively changes the culture of a business, he said.

In addition to bringing on interns, businesses have the option to underwrite an intern to work at a non-profit.

Representatives from AT&T, the program’s Founding Sponsor, Bank of America, the program’s Presenting Sponsor, Education is Freedom, the nonprofit that administers the Intern Fellows program, and Highland Capital Management, the sponsor of the program’s job fair, also spoke about the benefits of the program.

The event also featured students who have completed internships through the program. Curtis Williams, a senior at W.H. Adamson High School, said his two completed internships better prepared him for life after high school.

“I’m proud of myself,” he said. “I learned how to network and gained a sense of community.”

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