Robert F. Smith, the billionaire technology investor who recently surprised Morehouse College’s Class of 2019 with a grant to pay off their student loans, has turned his attention to ensuring students from underrepresented groups have access to internships—a professional development opportunity that is often out of reach for lower-income and minority students, The Chronicle of Philanthropy reports.
The InternX program aims to help 10,000 “rising sophomores with at least a 2.8 GPA from ethnically underrepresented groups” score an internship with a company focused on the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, AT&T, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Deloitte, Citi and Vista Equity Partners have all pledged to accept InternX applicants.
Unlike the Morehouse gift, which is a personal gift from Smith, InternX is a $3 million project of Fund II Foundation, a philanthropic fund spun off from Smith’s firm Vista Equity Partners that is headed by Smith and “supports the preservation of African-American culture, human rights, music education, the environment and outdoor programs, and programs that promote entrepreneurship and innovation,” the Chronicle reports.
‘The doors open’
The InternX program could be life-changing for underrepresented students, according to the head of a Harlem, N.Y., after-school activity program. “The doors open,” she told the Chronicle. “It opens our students up to new opportunities, businesses, and workplaces they didn’t know existed.”
“Too often students of color are overlooked when companies hire summer interns,” adds Linda Wilson, executive director of the Fund II Foundation. “Companies will take on ‘summer hires’ of children of board members or executives without regard to their qualifications, but won’t consider a student from a historically black college or who lives in a different neighborhood.”
InternX will provide companies seeking interns with a database of students studying STEM fields, aiming “to build a pipeline of qualified, vetted students” and address the claim by some companies that they want to diversify their internship ranks but can’t find qualified candidates. In addition, Fund II plans to provide interview training and resume reviews to support students seeking internships.
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