New internship program serves underrepresented students

FSU’s new Pathways Internship Program will offer paid internship opportunities for students who don’t qualify for the CHOICE Internship Program, according to Sean Huddleston, chief diversity and inclusion officer.

While the CHOICE Internship Program requires students be residents of Massachusetts and have a minimum GPA of 2.75, Huddleston said, the Pathways Internship Program is open to FSU students who maintain GPAs starting at 2.2. It will officially start next spring.

Students are paid an hourly rate of $11 and work 10 hours a week for the duration of the 15-week semester, according to Huddleston.

The program was created in collaboration with both the Division of Inclusive Excellence and Career Services.

Huddleston said the program will help train “underserved” and “underrepresented” students through a required four-hour professional competence training course.

As a result of being educationally underserved prior to college, many students find it difficult to meet the academic requirements of internship programs such as CHOICE, he said.

“We have many students who come to Framingham State with a variety of backgrounds,” Huddleston said. “We have people who will come from backgrounds in which they were underserved by their high school or grade school education.”

The Pathways Internship Program aims to remove the barrier that prevents those students from getting internships, Huddleston added.

Additionally, Huddleston said the Pathways Internship Program gives out-of-state residents the opportunity to participate in paid internships.   

“They are very important contributors to both our campus and our communities and will be great contributors to our country and to the world,” he said. “They shouldn’t be prevented from having an internship.”

FSU received a $30,000 donation from the Jacobs Foundation, which provided funding for 15 paid internships, Huddleston said.

The foundation will provide funding for up to five more internship spots if the 15 get filled, Huddleston said.

It will also provide funding for students who don’t have access to their own transportation, he said.

As of Wednesday, Nov. 30, only three of the 15 spots are available next spring, according to Executive Administrative Assistant Roxana Marrero.

Senior Letycia Pereira, a chemistry major and Pathways intern, said, “In my field, experience is super needed, and in my current internship, I realized I wanted to try something different. But, because I worked two jobs since freshman year, my GPA didn’t make it above 3.0 to qualify for CHOICE. … [the Pathways Internship Program] is giving everyone a chance to be successful, or even just gain something they might never have had the chance to.”

Junior Ross Greiner said the Pathways Internship Program “addresses a need of a large number of people on campus.”

They added, “If you need an internship for your major and you are simply being denied because of your place of residence, then that in and of itself is a huge issue that is being taken care of with this new internship program.”

Huddleston said, The Career Services Office has been working with its “strong database of [prospective] employers” to help secure students’ internships for the Pathways Program.    

Internship Coordinator Jill Gardosik said while CHOICE is restricted to offering internships with local branches of government and nonprofit and community-based organizations. The Pathways Internship Program, which is privately funded, has no restrictions. Therefore, private companies can participate.

Gardosik said although Career Services is still establishing internships with employers throughout the area, former CHOICE employers are also looking forward to working with Pathways interns.

“They’ve had such wonderful successful experiences with Framingham State students being interns at their businesses that several of them are very open to the idea of participating in Pathways,” said Gardosik.

Huddleston said, “The Pathways internship, and any internship, should really be something that is supplemental to their learning that they get out of their classes.”

Senior Teofilio Barbalho said, “There are some students who don’t have the best GPA, and it’s not because they don’t try. They may be working a 50-hour work week, which affects their grade. They also may be in a major that is ‘harder’ than most other majors. … Pathways is going to provide those students with an internship or opportunity they may not have had.”

Last month, Career Services hosted a Pathways kick-off event, which served as the official unveiling of the new program, Huddleston said.    

Gardosik said four business panelists from the MetroWest area keynoted the event and discussed the value of internships.

“The employers who attended the event were here to give an overview on their thoughts of why internships are important for students,” she said.

Huddleston said, “We wanted to talk about the Pathways Program not just to prospective students, but to the employers themselves, so that everybody’s expectations would be fully understood in that meeting.”

Managing director of ComCreative, Jennifer Ashkinos, who served on the panel, said she believes the Pathways Program is “a great opportunity for kids.

“Sometimes, it’s really hard to balance school, work and other obligations and meet the criteria, but I think this opens up the door to a lot of people who are worthy and deserve the opportunity, but may not have reached the bar.”

She added, “We’ve had great success with Framingham State students. We are huge supporters and we feel that the programs there really do prepare the students for the real world, and we are excited to participate.”

Senior and CIE Intern Kendra Hinkins said, “There are so many majors that require us to have internships, and a lot of them are unpaid. What Pathways does is create a space for people to get paid. … Also, it’s very broad. There are people in business who are in it – people in sociology and people in psychology. It’s a very broad program and there is no other program like that.”    

Junior Edgar Kalinda, a biology major, said he decided to sign up for the Pathways Internship Program after hearing about it at a Brother to Brother meeting.

“I’m currently working in the health industry and would like to get any possible internship,” he said. “Many students like myself are looking for opportunities to grow and have a great understanding of the field we plan on working in.”

Senior Erica Barbosa, a business major, said she signed up because The Pathways Internship Program allows more internship opportunities for students.

“I’m doing an internship and I don’t qualify for CHOICE, so I thought Pathways would be an easier way to join,” she said.

Huddleston added that although Career Services will work with students to pair them up with potential internship employers, the office is pushing for students to seek out the businesses themselves.

“By and large, we want the student to take the required steps to ensure the internship and we will, between our office and Career Services, make sure to provide the support and preparation that is needed for our students to be successful,” he said.

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