Local high school students earned valuable real-world work experience this summer through the inaugural Prepare Rhode Island internship program, which graduated its first cohort of 162 students at the end of August.
Through the pilot program, the group of rising high school seniors participated in paid internships while earning six college credits.
After attending a career readiness boot camp, participants were assigned to work with one of nearly 50 employer partners.
Many of the participants noted that the program helped them realize their full potential and feel more comfortable in the workplace, while giving them a jump-start to college coursework.
Lincoln’s Brook Cary, who interned at CVS Health’s corporate office in Woonsocket, said she gained helpful experience from the process of applying to the program, particularly having to write a resume and sit down for interviews. Analyzing and organizing data for the major corporation was her first job.
Paige Cook, of Cumberland, who worked at the Citizens Bank headquarters at One Citizens Plaza in Downtown Providence, said her experience this summer has helped her narrow her career goals.
“While working in the corporate affairs department, I learned about corporate giving, sponsorships, event planning and so much more,” she said. Interacting with professionals at corporate events around Rhode Island and Massachusetts led her to the realization that she wants to study communications and journalism, rather than science and biology as she had previously been considering.
Christopher Bove, a rising senior at Middletown High School, said his internship in the office of the governor’s legal counsel was a dream come true. Being legally blind, he worried that the program would not accept him because of his disability. “Why would they hire someone they have to accommodate?” he thought.
In reality, he said the program recognized that he is, “disabled but not at a disadvantage. As someone who is visually impaired, PrepareRI gave me the life-changing opportunity to compete and gain skills and experience that will give me a head start in my career field – without feeling like I’m at a disadvantage.”
“This is a phenomenal program,” Bove added. “They genuinely wanted to see us succeed. I’ve never participated in a more rewarding experience in my entire life.”
Bove’s partner in the program was Classical High School senior Ashely Rodriguez Lantigua, who agreed that interning at the Statehouse made her realize she deserves a seat at the table as a minority woman from South Providence.
“My background was definitely valued. It gave me a lot of hope … being able to be there and see that I can do this,” she said. “You can be involved, vote and make decisions that will directly affect you.”
Her internship also challenged her to work through a language barrier and communicate orally and in writing. She learned the nuances of politics, discovering that things are not, “black and white … a lot goes on behind the scenes.”
“If the government doesn’t work for everyone then it doesn’t work for anyone,” Bove and Lantigua said, sharing their greatest takeaway of the program.
PrepareRI launched in 2016 when the state earned a New Skills for Youth grant from JPMorgan Chase and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSS0). The Rhode Island Governor’s Workforce Board and Partnership for Rhode Island funded this summer’s pilot internship program, while Skills for Rhode Island’s Future was tapped to act as an intermediary and help maneuver the program.
Rhode Island Department of Education Commissioner Ken Wagner said 100 internship spots were initially advertised, but RIDE received a “overwhelming” response of more than 600 applications in the first year alone, choosing to expand their reach to offer internships to 162 students across the state.