“I’ve had so many students tell me that they wish that they could have started their educations with an internship experience,” says Marcie Iannacchione, Program Coordinator at the TMCC Career Center. To students who have undeclared majors and only vague ideas of what they want to do beyond college, real work experience can be the key to uncovering interests and aptitudes they might not have considered. So, Iannacchione decided to create a program that would offer students work experience during—not after—their first year of college.
The Success First Work Experience program, which took its maiden voyage this past Fall semester with five students, is reporting successful outcomes for the 500 hours of internship work student participants completed. These students were also a part of the Success First Summer Bridge Program, which “jump starts” the college experience for first-generation college students through a six-week intensive summer program that runs daily and provides the students with math classes, additional academic support and a free lunch.
So far, the data demonstrates that the Summer Bridge program works: program participants since 2010 have a higher graduation rate than non-participants (for example, in 2014, 52% of Summer Bridge participants graduated, as compared to 26% of non participants) and they tend to persist into their college careers more than students do without the additional supports of the Success First program.
This is vital because over half (51%) of TMCC students are first-generation college students. These students face unique challenges, and can struggle with locating the support and resources they need to be successful in college, and with not knowing exactly how a college education can lead to a professional career. The Success First program provides supports that have demonstrated positive impact on our first-generation students, enabling over half of these students not only to pass their courses, but to succeed in them.
The Success First Work Experience program takes the same paradigm and applies it to helping students transition from the classroom environment to the workplace. Through a unique partnership with the City of Reno and the nonprofit Dress for Success, this program offers first-year students paid, professional work experience in their field of choice that compliments their academic schedule during the Fall semester. Kailee Betts, who found an internship with Sierra Kids, a before and after school program overseen by Reno’s Parks and Recreation Department, began the internship as an undeclared major. The experience, though, has made her want to “...explore this degree more.”
“This program gave me many opportunities and increased my skills. I improved my time management, organization and teamwork,” Betts said of her internship opportunity. TMCC student Keelie Curl was able to pursue her interest in the law sooner than she had expected when the City of Reno placed her in the City Attorney’s Office, where she works for three days each week at the front desk completing administrative tasks. “I’ve always been interested in law, and I’m excited that I get to work with attorneys with so many different backgrounds and specializations.”
Each participating student was required to complete 100 hours of paid internship work. “It’s a really great program, because it keeps our students here and it keeps them focused on how their education transfers into a professional career,” said Iannacchione.
Curl, whose internship in the City Attorney’s Office, is opening many doors...some of them she didn’t expect. “I get to work in both the criminal and the civil divisions,” she said. “That’s really unusual, because usually you don’t have the opportunity to see both.” Curl, who is only a freshman at TMCC, is gaining valuable experience that will guide her toward the specialization—and the law degree—she wants.
Both students agree that the program has helped them in numerous ways. “This program is a must-do,” said Betts. “The City is more than happy to work around your school hours, and give you a schedule that works for you. It’s a great way to be a part of something bigger […and] it showed me more about a future career that interests me.”
“They’ll find something you’re interested in,” Curl said. “And, there are a lot of mentors to guide you along the way, which is so helpful. And, it’s real work experience you’re paid for!”
The Success First Work Experience program is open to students who are eligible for the Success First Summer Bridge Program—in other words, for first generation college students who have just graduated from high school who have completed the FAFSA and demonstrate a need for financial assistance.