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Editorial: Saying yes to internships

Young people need jobs and employers need young people to fill jobs as baby boomers retire in ever greater numbers. It is not always easy to meet the need, which is where Say Yes Buffalo, with a generous donation from Citi Foundation, has stepped up.

The nonprofit, whose mission is to ensure free college tuition for graduates of Buffalo public schools who enroll in a state college or university, was awarded a $250,000 grant from Citi Foundation. The money will go toward internships for Say Yes students.

The vital role that Say Yes plays in this community has grown and it is a welcome development. David Rust, the organization’s executive director, talked about the nonprofit’s expanded duties, which it gladly takes on. Students and their families are appreciative of the help they receive from Say Yes, but then they realize that there is an employment gap on their resumes. That’s when the calls start.

As Rust told News Staff Reporter Jay Rey, “The No. 1 phone call we receive from our Say Yes scholars, which there’s around 2,800 at any given point in time, is ‘Can you help me with paid work experience and summer internships?’ ” This past year, Say Yes partnered with 43 local organizations. These groups provided paid summer internships to 52 of its college students.

As Rust observed, while the community is engaged in a much-needed conversation about high school and college, employment is also a crucial issue. What better way to fill the needs of both students aspiring to be gainfully employed than introduce them to organizations willing to offer training and a glimpse into various careers?

Citi Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Citibank, has agreed to pay for internships at nonprofits and public institutions that do not have the resources to pay interns. This is the second time Citi Foundation has made a quarter million-dollar donation to Say Yes, as part of the foundation’s focus on career readiness. It did so in 2017 and this new round is expected to last Say Yes through to early 2020, according to Rust.

The opportunity for summer internships will offer students the chance to explore career options, while bringing in cash. The participating organizations get access to a pool of educated candidates who can be groomed for the future.

It’s a win-win, thanks to the generosity of Citi Foundation and continuing efforts of Say Yes.

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