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Palmetto Bay Village Hall (SFNS / Jesse Scheckner)
Palmetto Bay Village Hall (SFNS / Jesse Scheckner)

Palmetto Bay to consider high school internships in business, local government

High school honors students in Palmetto Bay may soon be able to intern for businesses and in local government in exchange for school credit or cash.

Palmetto Bay Education Advisory Committee chair Diane Quick and members Debby Hitchins, Greg Zawyer and Erica Watts voted unanimously on May 31 to recommend that the Palmetto Bay Village Council consider adopting two internship programs—one during the school year and the other in summertime—designed by Miami-Dade County Public Schools.

The programs would be open to high school juniors and seniors with 3.0 or higher unweighted grade point averages throughout Miami-Dade County, with an emphasis on hiring students in Palmetto Bay.

By Jesse Scheckner
South Florida News Service
@SFNS_NewsInstagram• Facebook 

“We’re looking to start small,” said Councilwoman Karyn Cunningham at the meeting. “But I have no doubt the program is going to be successful.”

The first of the two programs, referred to on MiamiDade.gov as the High School Internship Program, is an unpaid internship that would be introduced during the 2017-2018 school year. Students would receive one or two annual credits for 45 or 90 hours worked per quarter.

Its success, Cunningham said, would likely determine whether the village would move forward in the summer with the Summer Youth Internship Program. That program requires students to work 150 hours between June and July in exchange for $1,215 paid by the county and The Children’s Trust.

An outline of the program’s 2016 highlights, presented to the committee by MDCPS Technical Education Executive Director Lupe Diaz showed that 1,463 students in the county worked approximately 216,150 hours with 717 internship providers.

“We always have more supply than demand,” she said. “It’s a great opportunity for [local businesses] to give back to the community and make a positive impact on students.”

Cunningham said she chose to sponsor a resolution to bring the internships to Palmetto Bay so high school students could gain exposure to the inner workings of local government. Only college students are currently allowed to intern at the village center, she said.

And while Cunningham said her focus with the internships’ implementation is in city government, she noted that their approval would open the doors to all qualified local businesses to participate.

“We’re essentially one of the largest businesses in Palmetto Bay, and you want to be able to lead by example,” she said. “It’s a really good connect; there’s not a lot of young people going into administration and city government work, so I think it’ll give good exposure and an idea of what you do when you work for a city.”

But not all members of the council were as optimistic. Vice Mayor John Dubois, citing concerns about time and resource management, suggested limiting the number of interns to about three to avoid distracting city staff who may neglect their responsibilities while guiding the interns.

And Councilwoman Larissa Siegel Lara expressed discomfort with hiring high school interns because of the time it would take away from their studies. Instead, she said, the village should develop a program in which students work on specific tasks with explicit goals rather than long-term, unfocused internships.

“Basically, low-cost labor or free labor doesn’t feel right to me,” she said.

However, Mayor Eugene Flinn, after being told by Cunningham that Culter Bay has successfully implemented its own internship program, said Palmetto Bay should use that program as an example.

“I don’t think we should be reinventing the wheel,” he said.

The council is scheduled to vote on the programs on July 3.

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