Internship At Nonprofit Could Equal A Career Path

Summer is the time of year some nonprofits struggle to find reliable help. College students involved in an exclusive internship program are filling that need.

The Exxon Mobil Community Summer Jobs Program kicked off its 15th year during a ceremony at the Houston Museum of Natural Science. Sixty college interns are given an opportunity to work with an area nonprofit during the summer.

Exxon Mobil's Rich Kruger says it pays the interns for the 2 months they spend with the nonprofit.

"Those companies that want, or are looking for a summer intern, they make application, and we look at them and screen them with Volunteer Houston to look at those that are going to provide the best, most rewarding experience with the right level of supervision for the interns. So, they must compete the same way the interns compete for us. So, we literally have the strongest organizations in the city, and the strongest interns in our country here."

The company provides grants for intern salaries and expenses related with the program.

Laura Mears with Volunteer Houston, says the interns quickly realize the program is much more than a paycheck or a summer job.

"For many, it's really a life changing experience. They come in really, they thought they just got a summer job. You know, they just needed to get paid, and walk away with a new career path, or a new passion. I mean, it's really wonderful to witness. And as far as the organizations go, being nonprofit, we're always strapped for help. So it's just a great way to get I mean, this amazing young college students in to work with us over the summer."

Mears says the feedback she gets from the nonprofits and interns is a testament to the importance of the program.

"I love hearing the stories from the organizations, about what the intern accomplished. 'We were finally able to do this project'. And then for the students, it's just amazing just to hear the passion in their voice. I mean, I had one student tell me, 'For the first time, I actually feel like I fit in somewhere. I know where I'm supposed to be now, and what I'm supposed to be doing, and I wouldn't have had this experience, without this program.'"

Jarrett Bryant graduated from Yale, and is now working with the nonprofit he interned with.

Citizens Schools partners with middle schools to expand the learning day for children in low-income communities here and across the country.

"They gave me a lot of really great experiences, both in management, development and civic engagement, and all the pieces that make a successful nonprofit work. And it really motivated me to come back and make a difference in the community through Teach for America. And of course, I put Houston as one of my top choices, because I had an excellent time as a Houston intern."

To date, the Community Summer Jobs Program has provided paid internships to nearly 800 college students in Houston.

Bio photo of Pat Hernandez

Pat Hernandez

Reporter

Pat Hernandez is a general assignments reporter who joined the KUHF news staff in February of 2008...