The Scottsdale Unified School District and a premier community employer have teamed up to help the students of a local high school broaden both employment and education horizons beyond what they themselves might believe possible.
School district officials tell stories of perseverance — early mornings of summer vacation shaped with multiple bus routes, long miles and tight schedules — by those students hailing from Coronado High School, 7501 E Virginia Ave., going the extra mile to learn the ins and outs of a career at Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co.
The Fortune 100 company employs more than 1,000 people in Scottsdale and has plans to expand and supplant its regional headquarters in the northern region of the community.
Nationwide successfully bid $83 million last month for about 134 acres of state trust land with plans for a mixed-use development, including a regional corporate headquarters. The property is at the northwest corner of Hayden Road and Loop 101.
“The Nationwide Internship program offered our students the opportunity to job shadow many professionals, such as accountants, HR directors, PR directors, actuaries, adjusters, claims adjusters, claims clerk, customer service representatives, loss control specialists, attorneys, and many others,” said Amy Fuller, special assistant superintendent at Scottsdale Schools.
“Nationwide paid our students to attend the internship program during the summer, making it an easier decision for those students who needed to have summer jobs.”
The program is one of the many facets of the Coronado Success Initiative, a collaborative approach between the business and philanthropic community and public education.
When the Coronado Success Initiative started in the 2017 school year, the effort — made possible through a partnership between the Scottsdale Charros, Scottsdale Community College, Arizona State University and Scottsdale Schools — was meant to turn around a failing school.
In January 2017 it was reported the school year prior only saw two Coronado High School students take the ACT test, which is typical precursor to college attendance. Furthermore, that school year:
Only 25 students took the SAT test;
Only 12 students took an AP exam; and
Only 29 students enrolled in an AP course.
However, change is afoot at Coronado as Dr. Fuller reports that in this school year alone 192 Coronado students will be taking the ACT, which is a stark contrast to 13 in 2016 and only six in 2017.
The Coronado Success Initiative now has more than 17 community partners offering regular keynote speakers, professional development experts, community engagement, a professional mentor program and, now, a internship program at Nationwide Mutual Insurance.
Fast forward two school years and all 228 seniors at Coronado High School last year filled out at least one college application and the school has set a new district record notching the most graduates, 91, from Arizona State University’s American Dream Academy.
Dr. Fuller, who is spearheading the Coronado Success Initiative, says the professional internship program is another step in improving the lives of Coronado students.
“The most important ‘thing’ that Nationwide offered our students was opportunities to succeed,” she explained. “They set up a program to ensure our students would be successful. This internship was a life-changing experience for all of the student participants.”
Dr. Fuller says a transformation is occurring at Coronado High School — and much of it has been made possible because of faculty, staff, administration, but most importantly, the students.
“Our CHS students did very well in the Nationwide Internships,” she said of a student-body population of which 66 percent come from difficult socioeconomic backgrounds carrying a 6 percent rate of college readiness.
“They were attentive, respectful, showed initiative and commitment — we had a student who had to take several buses to get there — and learned fast, among many other positive traits.”
The internship program is already making a difference, Dr. Fuller explains.
“At the end of the internship, three of them were hired by Nationwide,” she pointed out. “Also, Nationwide would like to continue this program since it was very successful. We were told that many other departments at Nationwide would like our students to more fully participate in their departments next time around.”
When asked why the program was started with Coronado students, Dr. Fuller replied, “simply put, they need it the most.”
“Economically disadvantaged students do not have the same opportunities other students have,” she explained of the reality of socioeconomics.
“Internships, like the one Nationwide provided, help level that field for them. It opens views they never had before. Our students who participated in this internship have gained a new perspective in life. They have also learned that the skills they have are valuable and desired by many companies — they have a renewed hope for greater opportunities in their future.”
Business United for Scottsdale Schools
A few years ago a collection of local business leaders forged an idea to bring the business community to the aid of failing public education in certain pockets of SUSD.
The Scottsdale Charros — who for nearly 60 years have been in the constant pursuit of improving the lives of everyday residents while maintaining the community’s western heritage — were one of the first to step up in support.
In 2016, the Scottsdale Area Chamber of Commerce and Scottsdale Schools formerly launched the Business United for Scottsdale Schools initiative with a focus on pre-K through post-secondary workforce development strategy with the idea attracting and developing the best students, teachers and workforce talent to the district.
The Scottsdale Charros provided $15,000 in grant dollars to help launch the program.
Dr. Fuller explains it was the BUSS effort that led Nationwide to Scottsdale Schools.
“BUSS and school district officials asked Nationwide representatives if we could talk to them about offering internships to Coronado High School students,” she said.
“The internships they had offered in the past were to college students only. However, they were willing to listen to us. Apparently, our conversation had an impact on them, and they decided to pilot an internships with high school students.”
For Scottsdale Charro Rick Carpinelli, the Coronado Success Initiative and BUSS effort is a labor of love.
“The most important resource for businesses today is a workforce that is educated and ready to perform the work of that business,” he said of the vital need for the next generation of leaders to take the helm.
“Companies are making the decision to locate and grow in areas where that educated workforce can be provided. We have the opportunity to educate our students so they can become part of the workforce that is needed. Companies want to relocate and grow in our community and that helps our economy become more vibrant and encourages students to stay in our community and call it home.”
Mr. Carpinelli is senior vice president of acquisition and development at Crown Realty and Development and is serving his fourth year as a member of the Business United for Scottsdale School Board of Directors.
“As a board, it’s our job to figure out how to implement the BUSS mission successfully in our community,” he said.
“Through my community involvement I had the opportunity to meet Doreen Reinke from Nationwide. Nationwide is a large employer in the city of Scottsdale that has made a corporate commitment to be a beneficial part of the community. When the BUSS board was looking to facilitate an internship program, my first call was to Doreen. Fortunately, Doreen was already working on creating such a program. The BUSS organization was able to help facilitate nationwide with the Scottsdale Schools.”
Mr. Carpinelli contends the road to a respected professional is one that often starts with an internship.
“Learning how to prepare for work each day. Learning how to dress for work, learning how to interact with others at work, and learning how to take direction from others are all important basic requirements of the workplace that can be learned in an internship,” Mr. Carpinelli said of the virtue of real-world experience.
“An internship also provides the opportunity for a student to see how the information learned in a classroom can be applied in the workplace.”
A public and private approach
Scottsdale Unified School District Governing Board member Kim Hartmann, who serves on both The Charro Foundation Board of Directors and Business United, says she wants to help bridge the gap between the business community and public education.
“By hosting the program through the Scottsdale Chamber and including SUSD and SCC administrators along with business professionals on the BUSS board, we are creating tighter connections between the two communities and practical work experience programs for students,” she said.
“There are many expected and unexpected benefits to the intern program.”
Ms. Hartmann contends the program is providing high school students practical work experience and exposure to professionals that may lead to career opportunities.
Dana Schmidt, a human resources business consultant at Nationwide, echoes a similar sentiment.
“Nationwide has a history of developing young talent, including offering high school and college internships at several of our major locations — including our headquarters in Columbus, Ohio,” he said in a prepared statement. “When we heard about Coronado High School’s efforts to give students the opportunity to explore potential careers, we decided to partner with them. These internships are a great way for students to experience the corporate environment and learn more about careers in the insurance industry.”
Mr. Schmidt points out one student thanked the company “for believing in her” and says it’s not just Coronado where Nationwide is seeking to be a good corporate citizen.
“Today, she is a part-time Nationwider and also attending college full-time,” he said of the Coronado student. “In addition to our new partnership with Coronado, we wanted to strengthen our existing partnership with the Salt River Pima Indian Community, from whom we lease multiple buildings on tribal land. As a result, we sought out a relationship with Salt River High School and recently hosted our first high school intern from the school.”
Mr. Schmidt outlines the internship program aims to showcase the inner-workings of the insurance industry.
“Nationwide’s High School Internship Program provides sophomore through senior-year high school students with a basic understanding of how the insurance industry works, on-the-job mentorship and training as well as the ability to perform meaningful work that leads to business results,” he said.
“We assign students to one of four distinct learning ‘pods,’ which have a unique learning focus and cover a different part of our business.”
Mr. Schmidt contends Nationwide is a values-based company and the internship program is an extension of that belief.
“We believe strongly in providing students a strong foundation for their futures and the ability to envision a successful career for themselves. One of our recent high school interns told us she believed working in a restaurant was her only career possibility until her internship experience at Nationwide,” he said.
“In turn, the students provide fresh and innovative perspectives that we wouldn’t have received otherwise. These are the young men and women who are entering the workforce, so we’re intentionally investing in their futures and ours. By helping students gain valuable work experience they may not otherwise have had access to — we’re able to build a pipeline of talent while positively changing lives in the process.”
Scottsdale Independent’s Northeast Valley Managing Editor Terrance Thornton can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org