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Corporate Internships Pave the Way for San Miguel Students

Biz Tucson Magazine- Summer 2009

By Mae Lee Sun

To Jared Juan, doubt is “only a temporary state of mind.”  And it was the farthest thing from Juan’s mind when he and 23 other students graduated from San Miguel High School on May 23.

“The real world seems like a daunting place,” Juan said in his speedch to fellow classmates, family, friends and others gathered to celebrate San Miguel’s second graduating class.

But Juan said he and classmates “will definitely be ready for the corporate world upon graduation” from the colleges and universities where all 24 graduates will enroll this fall.

Juan attributed their readiness to San Miguel’s Corporate Internship Program- an innovative program that requires each San Miguel student to work one day a week at entry-level jobs in professional settings around Tucson.

The money each student earns is poured back into San Miguel, on Tucson’s south side, where it covers about half the cost of each student’s $8,500 annual tuition.  Donations cover 30 percent, and parents-most of them low-income, many of whon never graduated from high school-pay the remaining 10 percent.

San Miguel High School, started in 2004, is one of 22 private Catholic high schools in the nationwide Cristo Rey network.

Photo: Mae Lee Sun                       Humberto Stevens of Commerce Bank of Arizona with Elizabeth Goettel, President of San Miguel High School

Humberto Stevens of Commerce Bank of Arizona with Elizabeth Goettel, President of San Miguel High School

The Corporate Internship program is Cristo Rey’s cornerstone, providing students with entry-level jobs wtih lawyers, bankers, doctors, engineers, accountants and others.

Juan worked for four years at the Tucson Citizen and will enroll at Northern Arizona University this fall.

Classmate Margarita Quinones will go to Pima Community College for two years, then transfer to Arizona State University or The University of Arizona. She interned this last year with El Rio Community Health Centers, where she helped with filing, called patients to remind them of appointments, and mailed out physician referral slips.

Because of her experience with El Rio children’s clinic, Quinones wants to become a pediatrician or a children’s dentist.

All 37 of San Miguel’s seniors graduated last year, and went onto college.  The same is true of all 24 of this year’s seniors.  “You’re going to be the leaders of the community, once you graduate from the college of your choice,” honorary speaker Jim Click told the students.  Click also was an honorary speaker at last year’s graduation, San Miguel’s first.

He also is one of the community leaders credited with starting San Miguel High School, and he is one of its top donors.

“I thought, ‘My kids had the benefit of a private, college-prep high school-they both went to Salpointe- and I thought, why shouldn’t kids on the south side have the same advantage,” Click told BizTucson.

“We’re changing lives,” he said.  “I think it’s the best thing I’ve ever done since I’ve been in Tucson.”

Elizabeth Goettel, president of San Miguel High School for the past three years, calls the Corporate Internship Program “a very practical way to serve our population of students who typically could not access a private, college-prepatory education and on-the-job-training.”

During the school’s first two years, it was under-enrolled, Goettel said.  “The families in the neighborhood did no necessarily have the benefit of a secondary or college education themselves,” she said.  “A cultural shift had to happen.  The word had to get out into the community.  This year, we met and exceeded our enrollment goal.”

The school’s Corporate Internship Program draws support from 65 of the city’s business and education leaders, including Commerce Bank of Arizona, Carondelet Health Network, The University of Arizona, Jim Click Automotive Team, Pima Community College, Cox Communications and ABA Architects.

San Miguel is a win-win for students, businesses and ultimately the community, said Humberto Stevens, vice president of business development at Commerce Bank.  He also serves on the board at San Miguel High School and is president of the Hipsanic Alumni Association at the UA.

“It really helps the students learn the skills necessary to be part of a team and blossom into an adult,” Stevens said.

Carlos Ibarra, 17, just finished his junior year at San Miguel while working in the administrative offices at Commerce Bank of Arizona.

“I can do everything except handle money, because of my age,” Ibarra said.  “I’m learning more about the business world and myself.  I feel I can either go on to become a teller or even to owning a bank.  It’s also helping me to narrow the options-what I want and don’t want.”

BizTucson contributing writer Jane Erikson contributed to this story


San Miguel High School

  • A total of 243 students were enrolled this past school year.  The school expects an enrollment of 360 this fall.
  • Enrollment is 85 percent Hispanic; 10 percent Native American; and 5 percent African-American, Anglo and Asian.
  • The school has 18 teachers and 15 staff members.

To learn more about the Corporate Intership Program, contact program director Mark Neimeyer at (520) 294-6403, ext. 1429.

Written by maeleesun

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