Summer. A student's choices of what to do when classes aren't in session can be life-changing: an independent study, travel, the unpaid internship they were offered in a hospital, or volunteering at a charitable organization. But for some students, economic need trumps the pursuit of educational enrichment, and a summer that could be spent making professional connections and gaining hands-on career experience is devoted to stocking shelves and flipping burgers.
When students are forced to choose between minimum wage job to make ends meet or meaningful summer internships that further their growth and education, too often the bottom line wins out. We want to change that, and we're not alone.
Oberlin College is pleased to announce that Great Lakes Higher Education has awarded us their Career Ready Internship Grant that will provide $150,000 to support student internships. This one-year grant, which we will use to build on our track record of success in implementing the Class of 1965 Martin Luther King Jr. Internship Fund, allows Oberlin to help students identified as "moderate to high need" pursue meaningful opportunities without losing the income they may have received from summer jobs. The generous assistance of these two funds means Oberlin can increase the number of internships we normally support to nearly 50 deserving students in 2015.
Focused on delivering professional development, a solid learning environment, and an opportunity to network, these internships will have significant impact on our students' futures. Students with limited resources who gain valuable networking contacts and professional hands-on experience through internships stand a greater chance of succeeding in the post-college workplace. Those same students, in turn, recognize the value of the program and are more likely to support it in the future, giving more Obies the chance to pursue their dreams.
That's why it's so important that our alumni support programs like these. Further investment by alumni and other friends of the college can help create a permanent fund, providing better opportunities to help students succeed here in school and after graduation. As things stand, the Great Lakes grant is a single-year current use fund with the potential for renewal, while the Class of 1965 Fund is in its second year of five.
Working together, the Oberlin community can not only increase annual funding for internships, but also harness the ability to identify, cultivate, and sustain pipelines of high quality positions for our students. We call on the entire Oberlin family to help make this program a success, whether through making annual gifts that help establish and sustain an internship fund or by partnering with the college to create and offer intern positions. Your support, your professional network, your generosity can create a legacy of success.
In ways that are unlike other programs at Oberlin, internships embody the Oberlin motto of "Learning and Labor." With your help, students will be able to transform those words into their paths to success. With your help, 2015 will not only be the Year of the Internship at Oberlin; it will be the beginning of a lasting program that will transform the lives of our students this year and for years to come.
Photo Courtesy of Sai-Wing Chan '08 from a hospital internship