CPS internship program gives alumni ‘ladder to success’
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Before her junior year at Gordon S. Hubbard High School, Jasmin Murillo never thought she would be working in technology.
But during the summer between her junior and senior years, her career path changed a bit. Through an internship program run by Genesys Works, she worked with Exelon Corp. as a junior tech coordinator. Now, nearing the end of her third year with the program, she credits it for changing her life.
“In high school I knew I wanted to help people,” Murillo said. “I wanted to get a degree in social work, but once I started [this program], I found myself liking it.”
The junior tech coordinator program places Chicago Public Schools graduates in technology support roles at elementary and high schools across the district. As interns, Murillo and 12 others work about four hours a day, five days a week as IT support specialists at CPS schools.
Students work part time and get an opportunity to develop their professional and critical skills.
Personal and professional growth are two goals of the program, which began in 2014. The other goal: Help students in the “quiet middle,” a term Melinda McIntire, alumni services coordinator at Genesys, uses to describe students with average GPAs, around 2.9, and average ACT scores, around 21, who often fall through the academic cracks.
“We try to work with students who may not be the highest achievers in their class, who need additional direction and support,” McIntire said. “They’re a population that often gets looked over, and our mission is to support the advancement of their economic self sufficiency.”
The program has connected about 42 CPS alumni with part-time technology jobs. Among the alumni, 90 percent are first-generation college students and about 98 percent are students of color.
As a first-generation student, Murillo, who will be a sophomore at the University of Illinois at Chicago, said the program gave her hope for her future.
“It’s been a great experience,” Murillo said. “I’ve gotten to grow, but I see my friends who aren’t in the program not growing in the same ways. I’ve matured a lot — I think I can be successful now.”
The CPS board recently approved more schools to join the program. Phillip DiBartolo, chief information technology officer at CPS, said that this was the third straight year the program expanded.
“We’re providing them a ladder to success,” DiBartolo said. “When our students see our alumni gainfully employed, it serves as inspiration for them.”
Murillo sees this as a good thing. Without it, she said, she would be working in a factory somewhere because she hadn’t had real support for her future.
“I used to see myself as a nobody,” Murillo said. “I went from someone with no aspirations to someone who hopes to work for a big tech company and who wants to help people like me get more involved in tech.”