Internship Helps High School Students Jump Start Careers

DES MOINES, Iowa –While many high school students spend their summers at the pool or a part time job, twelve seniors from North High School are suiting up for a year-long internship.

Somerle Rhiner said, "We're learning how to professionally write e-mail, stuff like that."

Rhiner is one of 12 interns as part of the Beacon Internship Program at Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield. They’re learning things like communication skills while training to work this school year. Darrick Burrage said, "Just yesterday we learned about different communication styles someone can have."

Jasmine Imthabounh said, "We've also been learning how it works here at Wellmark and all the programs they have here and their inclusiveness. We also just learned about customer service and communication yesterday. So, it's a lot."

Liz Johnson, Wellmark Senior Trainer and HR Development Program Consultant, said, "It's different because it's high school students, and we really give them a lot of training on a specific job within the company."

The North High School students are chosen through an interview process in the spring. They train in the summer and start work in the fall. Johnson said, "They'll begin to solve the mystery that our claims that might not go through the system, get kicked out and have to be fixed before they get paid. That's going to be their job."

This is the third year for the program, and two of the original interns are now full-time employees. Markes Carter is now a Claims Examiner 1. He said, "I was just talking to Lexi, it doesn't seem like it was two years ago we were in their shoes."

Alexis Smith is also a Claims Examiner 1 after graduating in 2016. "I learned how to get out of my comfort zone because I'm very shy, and so you're working with a big company, and they help you with your resume business attire, something no high schooler would even know, they help you with,” she said.

The internship is paid, and the goal is benefit the entire community. Beacon Intern Terri Ance said, "Just get more experience, and just become more professional, so I can interact with people different from me, and be able to open people's eyes."

Darrick Burrage said, "This alone going on an application is a big deal, especially for somebody my age. I think it also teaches me skills I can use to better myself in the future, not just in my job, but as a person."

Wellmark also offers help paying for tuition. Both Carter and Smith plan to eventually go to college to further their careers.