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University employers, mentors needed to support SummerWorks

February 6, 2023

By Armeka Richey

Poverty Solutions



SummerWorks, Washtenaw County’s preeminent Summer Youth Employment Program, is inviting members of the University of Michigan community to make a real-world difference in the lives of young adults by providing a quality internship or mentorship in the summer of 2023.

U-M departments can hire SummerWorks interns, who are ages 16-24 and attend school or live in Washtenaw County. The internships are 10-week positions that pay $15 an hour or $17 an hour, depending on whether the intern has obtained a high school diploma or equivalent.

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U-M staff also can serve as mentors for SummerWorks youth. Those interested commit as little as one hour per week and receive ongoing mentorship guidance and support from SummerWorks staff. Upcoming information sessions offer a chance to learn more about getting involved as a SummerWorks employer or mentor.

“(It’s) a great opportunity for all of us to connect with someone we might not ordinarily cross paths with. An opportunity for me to use my resources, connections and experience to benefit someone who might not readily have access to this information or network,” said Pardip Bolina, associate director of U-M’s Center for Global and Intercultural Study and a SummerWorks 2022 mentor.

The Summer Youth Employment Program was created in 2016 by the Washtenaw County Office of Community and Economic Development and operated by MichiganWorks! Southeast to create equity in access to quality employment opportunities and improve job trajectories for area youth.

Since 2018, the program has worked in close partnership with U-M to provide professional development, fair-pay internships, and high-caliber network prospects for youth who are underrepresented in socio-economic circles with high access to opportunity. The program also partners with Michigan Rehabilitation services to ensure enhanced accessibility to those who need it.

In 2022, SummerWorks staff made 78 mentor matches while more than 35 employers (including 15 U-M units) hosted one or more young adults in internships. Of those employers, 87% said they would recommend participating in the SummerWorks program to a colleague. Past U-M employers include the Center for Social Solutions, Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy’s Dean’s Office, Museum of Art, Program in Biology Labs and the School of Dentistry.

“The SummerWorks Program did an amazing job connecting us with qualified young adults who not only wanted to work in our specific field, but were also focused, professional and fast learners. … Supervisors were extremely impressed,” said Christine Kitchens, a research technician at Cooperative Institute for Great Lakes Research, which was a SummerWorks employer.

This year, SummerWorks will continue its hybrid format. By providing partial virtual programming, SummerWorks youth, mentors and employers can benefit from the convenience and safety that virtual programming can provide during the busiest times of the spring academic term. Starting in the summer, most of the program will be offered in-person, providing access to the U-M campus and a chance for community building during professional development sessions.

“The most valuable part of (professional development) was conflict management. This is a skill I can use outside of a professional setting,” said one 2022 youth participant.

SummerWorks plans to offer group mentorship opportunities this year for more than 100 mentor/mentee applicants with hopes of increasing social capital for youth and adults through connection and semi-structured discussions with like-minded professionals based on shared interests.

“What I liked … is learning how I could be of service to someone who was looking for different things from the mentor experience than I had expected. I could still make an impact with that student, even though I didn’t initially know how to. I found that incredibly valuable because I learned and practiced different strategies of helping that I wasn’t already familiar with,” said Leonymae Aumentado, project manager at Poverty Solutions and a 2022 SummerWorks mentor.


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