Austin students step up to the future

Published 6:00 pm Saturday, December 6, 2014

The Austin business community, along with the Step Up Achieve Austin program, has made it possible the last two years for Austin High School and Pacelli Catholic School students to get a better sense of what careers are available, jobs they might never have known existed. For this third year, organizers are hoping to provide even more internship opportunities for students.



“The feedback from the kids is that it’s an experience of a lifetime, and they are so fortunate to have this opportunity,” Austin High School Principal Katie Baskin said. “We’re always looking for more business partners to partner with us.”

Step Up Achieve Austin is a program partnership between Austin Public Schools, Pacelli Catholic Schools and the Austin business community that provides internship opportunities for high school students that are completing their junior year.

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It introduces them to careers they may not normally know much about and allows them an opportunity to experience professions they might not think they were qualified for.

Step Up Achieve is modeled from a program that started in Minneapolis in 2002. According to Baskin, the program started after a group from Hormel saw the program in Minneapolis and wondered if it would work in Austin.

“They thought, ‘we have wonderful businesses that are so supportive of our students,’” Baskin said. “They approached the schools and collaborated with them and here we are.”

This will be the third year the program is offered in Austin. The first year, seven internships were available to students. Last year there were 14 internships available. This year the hope is to offer more than 20 internships. Baskin said the internships have changed the way students look at both school and the future.

“The connections that they’ve made with the community, and a different level of advocates on their side,” she said.

Many of the students have mentioned getting their internship employer to write a letter of recommendation, or give them advice about a college, because of the connections they made during their internship.

“To be able to form those connections with our kids is truly valuable,” Baskin said.

Previous internships have included places like Hormel, Austin Public Schools Community Learning Center, Eastwood Bank, Vision 2020, the Historic Hormel Home and United Way Mower County.

“We try and pair them with something that they may be interested in doing in their future,” Baskin said.

Community members can be involved in the program by offering an internship opportunity at their business for 20 to 40 hours per week for six to eight weeks during the summer with a rate of pay from $7.50 to $10 per hour. Business owners are asked to provide a job description. The job can be in any area of the business and can help owners get projects done that employees simply don’t have time to do.

Business owners will interview and select the person that will work at their business, but the committee will set up the logistics of the interviews. The program is designed to provide job experience to students who will be going into the workforce very soon.

“Getting them out and really experiencing the business workforce as is, is something that we simply can’t do justice for during the school day, so it’s quite awesome for the kids,” Baskin said.

Students involved in the program include high school students that have completed their junior year of high school, students that have gone through an extensive training process and understand the rigors of the workplace, students that are highly motivated to work hard and learn new skills, and students that are first generation college students, students from low income or minority families.

To learn more information about this program, contact: The deadline for submitting a business is Dec. 12. For more information about the first program in Minneapolis, visit:

“We would always love to offer more opportunities for kids,” Baskin said.