This week I spoke with Blonka Winkfield  Vice President of Development and Expansion at the Leadership Program.  Thanks to Kareem Collie, a fellow Gov 3.0 student and amazing graphic designer for the introduction.

The Leadership Program was started in 1991 by Ted Otis as a training program with two chief goals: to teach educators how to use New York City’s cultural institutions and diverse communities as an educational resource, and to provide effective training in leadership skills in an educational and greater social context. 

Blonka and shared our experiences with difficulty helping students to find and retain quality internships.

 I think her exact words were, “of the 25 to 30 programs I know of working on getting kids internships they would all say the process is a hot mess.”

We then turned the conversation to ways other than full on internships that the involvement of professionals can enhance art and technology programs ability to prepare students for the workforce.

Her top suggestions were:

  1. Have students visit business to see and learn about the types of jobs that they would not otherwise know of.
  2. Look at programs like State Farm’s community involvement program as a model of how to engage with corporations on a large scale.
  3. Seek out companies that may have an interest in youth culture so that “think tank” sessions can be set up for students to help companies in addition to employees sharing lessons from their projects. 

I asked Blonka to forward my draft project plan to a few co-workers.  She said that a project that can help more professionals connect with students to collaborate would lead to some students gaining internships organically.  

I’m very grateful for her insights and will reach out to more programs like the Leadership Program who have the capacity to scale a project that increase professional involvement in after-school arts and technology programs.