The Golden LEAF Scholars Leadership Program (GLSLP) offers one of the most comprehensive internship experiences for young people trying to gain work experience of any offered to this population in the state. In concert with their personal coach, each first and second-year scholar is responsible for searching for an internship in their tier one or tier two home county which aligns with their major in school. Coaches, many of whom are from the same or neighboring counties of the scholars they mentor, help provide critical support in a variety of ways. First, they help prep scholars by partnering to develop letters of interest to be sent to potential sites, and often coach them through what is for many their first professional interview experience. Once the scholar secures an internship, the coach further supports their learning experience by encouraging them to set challenging goals that allow them to make the most of this growth opportunity. A real bonus for scholars is that they are paid for this internship, which makes it a win-win situation for both the scholars and the internship site. The scholar earns money while gaining valuable work experience in their chosen field, and the internship site gets the benefit of a highly motivated and focused intern at no cost to them. 85% of internship supervisors say their intern made positive contributions to their organization. More than 90% rank their GLSLP interns higher than any other interns they’ve had, and about the same percentage say they would like to have their GLSLP intern return.
This internship model has been a highly successful part of the leadership program. Coaches get to flex their coaching muscles helping to prepare scholars for this transformational experience, and scholars get some practice creating their resumes and letters of interest, the result of which if their first foray into working in a professional environment with some intentional goals already established. The Golden LEAF Program Team trains internship supervisors prior to the start of each internship so that supervisors can support the leadership principles the scholars learn during conferences. Mid-term and final-evaluations help us track progress and identify any learning gaps.
The GLSLP internship remains one of the most compelling reasons that scholars join and remain in the program allowing the program to enjoy increasingly higher retention rates. Last program year, 43% of scholars who completed an internship were offered permanent full or part-time employment as a result of their performance. GLSLP interns worked a total of almost 45,000 hours last year, at a value of about $1.1M in volunteer hours.
In summary, scholars who participate in the leadership program and complete internships have an impressive resume as they graduate. They are supported by the Golden LEAF Foundation, a heavyweight in terms of financial contributions to the economic improvement of rural NC, leadership training provided by CCL, ranked in the top five of leadership education worldwide, and three years of an internship that gives them direct hands-on experience in their field. This sets them head and shoulders above their peers when entering the permanent job market after graduation.