UNCW Receives $100,000 SECU Grant to Fund 19 Student Internships in Rural Counties

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Nineteen University of North Carolina Wilmington students will have paid internships serving nonprofits or local governments in rural communities thanks to a $100,000 grant from the State Employees Credit Union Foundation. The student interns will work with nonprofits or local government organizations, with a focus on Brunswick, Onslow and Pender counties.

“The agencies are getting educated workers paid for by another agency, and our students are getting phenomenal experience,” said Thom Rakes, director of the UNCW Career Center, one of three offices at UNCW working together on the internship program.

The 2016 SECU Rural Internship Program is a joint effort of the Office of Community Engagement, the Career Center, QENO (Quality Enhancement for Nonprofit Organizations) and SECU. The program includes students from the Wilmington campus and the Onslow Extension Site.

“This was a great opportunity for quality collaboration between Academic Affairs and Student Affairs to benefit our students,” said Lori Messinger, associate vice chancellor for community engagement. “QENO brought knowledge of our regional nonprofits and local governments, the Career Center had infrastructure for enhanced internships that would provide the framework for the program, and the Office of Community Engagement brought the Academic Affairs perspective to the table.”

SECU grant money can only go to pay student interns, who work a 40-hour week from May 31 through July 29. Selected students will work through the campus’ Certified Internship Program (CIP), now in its fourth year. Interns will earn $12 an hour for 300 hours under the grant. CIP, which certifies that the internship “is a real learning experience,”  helps students express to future employers how their experience helped prepare them for the jobs they seek after college.

Internship priority goes to students who come from the target counties or other rural areas and who are interested in working in rural communities. The goal is to help them gain meaningful work experience and to show them their talents can be put to good use in communities that often have difficulty filling professional jobs.

“In rural counties, we see a lot of college students leaving the area after they graduate,” said Natasha Davis, director of QENO. “This is our way to show that, regardless of what your degree is, we need you in these counties.”

Before they go to work, students are instructed on the importance of maintaining professional demeanor and a strong work ethic, dressing the part and asking for feedback. Agencies also get some guidance in working with interns, many of whom may never have held jobs.

Listed below are the UNCW student interns participating in the SECU-funded program this summer and the agencies where they will work:

Hannah Imhoff, Brunswick Housing Opportunities; Rachel Allen, Brigade Boys and Girls Club of Pender County; Kristen Plazas, Brigade Boys and Girls Club of Onslow County; Sarah Hicks, Brunswick County Health Services; Mary Freeman, Catholic Charities; Marc Monace, City of Jacksonville Planning Department; Hannah Heger, City of Jacksonville Neighborhoods Program; Cassio Borges, City of Jacksonville Youth Programs; Shelby Smith, Community Boys & Girls Club of Pender County; Samuel Andrews, Countywide Community Development Corporation (CDC) of Brunswick County; Megan Mengistu, Onslow Community Outreach; Sakari Burgess, Onslow Parks and Recreation; Whitney Yenner, Pender County Information Technology Services; Patricia Strahl, Possumwood Acres, Onslow County; Ashley Lee, Jessica Small and Justin Gibson, assigned to different projects for The Salvation Army in Onslow County; Breanna Tenda, YMCA Camp Kirkwood, Pender County; and Stephen O’Gara, Pender County Planning and Development.

-- Tricia Vance

#Career Center