Mayor’s internship program gives teens a chance to explore careers at medical center

By Remekca Owens

When Aaron Williford was looking for a summer job this past spring, fast food restaurant and amusement park positions weren’t his first preference.

The 16-year-old incoming junior at James Madison High School in Dallas had intended to spend the summer collecting shoes for people in need. Then he was presented with a chance to participate in the Mayor’s Intern Fellows Program.

Not only would the eight-week internship at UT Southwestern Medical Center be paid, but it would also give him a wealth of experience and a healthy boost to his resume in preparing for college.  

“I’ve had a blast so far. If you’re willing to work hard and take your future seriously, this is a great place to learn how to be professional,” said Aaron, an intern in the Department of Health Information Management.

UT Southwestern is a first-time participant in the Mayor’s Intern Fellows Program, a project supported by Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings in partnership with the local nonprofit organization Education is Freedom. Founded in 2002, EIF has provided nearly 11,000 underserved students in Dallas Independent School District and local charter schools with college-entry preparation, mentoring, tutoring, and professional opportunities at some of the largest Dallas-area companies.

 In June, nine DISD high school students were hired to support an assortment of UTSW departments – including Radiation Oncology, Ambulatory Imaging, Environmental Services, and Human Resources, among others.

 “We wanted to give students who may not have had this kind of opportunity the chance to work in a learning environment that enhances their professional and social skills. We’re looking forward to next year, and hope to hire at least 20 students,” said Charlotte Williams, UTSW Senior Recruiter and Intern Program Coordinator.

The students were selected based on grade point averages, personal statements of interest, and solid school attendance records. Within each 40-hour workweek, they receive hands-on experience in an area of their interest, tips on succeeding in the workplace, and mentoring from UTSW health professionals and executives.

For Aaron, an aspiring sports marketing and business major, the internship also provided a few unexpected highlights.

 “The opportunity to meet Dr. Daniel K. Podolsky (President of UTSW) meant a lot to me because he’s a very prestigious man,” Aaron said. “Years from now, I’ll be able to say I met him and shook his hand.”

In August, nearly 200 interns from companies across the city including those from UT Southwestern will be treated to a luncheon at the Omni Dallas Hotel – a celebratory end to the 2012 Mayor’s Intern Fellows Program, and an opportunity to publicly thank their respective corporate sponsors.

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Dr. Podolsky holds the Philip O’Bryan Montgomery Jr., MD, Distinguished Presidential Chair in Academic Administration, and the Doris and Bryan Wildenthal Distinguished Chair in Medical Science.

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