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For many years now, the Career Technical Education Summer Internship program has helped San Francisco high school students hit the ground running with paid summer internships. The six-week program aims to help teens build their future careers goals in the fields of law, medicine, construction, or other industries.

The internship offers much more than the average teen summer job at a retail store or fast-food joint and is critical for many students, says Lynn Garcia, who helps run the summer internship program.

“We try to place them in real-life work experiences,” said Garcia. “They almost feel a little bit grown up.”

But the recession spares no program, and funds are quickly disappearing. Because numerous employers who have eagerly paid their interns’ salaries in past years can no longer afford to do so, the school district had to cough up $150,000 for the first time to save the program.

Without that funding, Garcia is positive that two-thirds of the 246 students in the program would not have been granted an internship.

But with a lack of funds and less companies bowing out of the program, the future of this program is unknown.

In the past, Kaiser Permanente offered 24 part-time positions and sponsored 20 others, but offered a meager ten positions this year. This includes the 5 additional slots Garcia was granted after writing a letter begging for more positions.

Similarly, PG&E went from granting 20 internships in past years, to two positions this year.

A panicked Garcia is already looking for jobs for next summer, knowing the odds are against them.

This intern has indeed slaved away countless hours at dead-end retail jobs, and I know firsthand that such jobs hardly reward hard work or inspire future career goals. Internships, on the other hand, teach the value of dedication and determination, and motivate students to work hard toward their personal career goals.

This internship program is a great way to give kids real-life jobs and save them from the perils of retail or fast food, and I hope it’s still alive and kicking come next summer.

To learn more about the program, visit SF’s Unified School District website.

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