Professional growth is the cornerstone of the college experience. For college students developing their skills through internships, professional growth often relies on the employer’s capacity to provide comprehensive experiences involving networking and leadership development.

At the College Scholarship Leadership Access Program (CSLAP), we support students going to and through college, which includes partnering with businesses to create internships for college students. Throughout the internships, CSLAP provides students ongoing professional development and support.

The added value for students includes personal mentorship from employers, specialized workshops from CSLAP, and professional portfolio projects that improve career prospects.

For example, this summer I will teach leadership and professionalization workshops for high school and college students interning at McAllen-based construction company, Ruiz Erectors LLC. From analyzing career and life paths to finding meaning in work, our workshops are designed to enhance the internship experience. 

Since summer 2020, CSLAP has partnered with New Jersey-based Manolo’s Best Farmstand Chili to form two marketing and outreach internships. While the COVID-19 pandemic threatened health and job security, Manolo’s Best made it possible for our students to gain valuable work experiences remotely and safely.

When students finish their internship, they implement a pay-it-forward plan that enables the next CSLAP student to continue their work efficiently and productively. In doing so, our students uplift one another and form long-lasting relationships with our partner employers.

CSLAP’s role in these partnerships parallels our role at local high schools: filling in opportunity gaps. Our goal is to create a platform for students to grow and social capital to flow.

Editor’s Note: The above guest column was penned by Thomas Ray Garcia, founder and executive director of College Scholarship Leadership Access Program. The column appears in The Rio Grande Guardian. Garcia, pictured above, can be reached by email via: [email protected].

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