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Meritus Scholars impact San Francisco community via internships of social change

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Meritus College Fund was founded in 1996 to help disadvantaged youth gain access to higher education. To this end a fund was established – driven by grassroots involvement -- to provide scholarships for talented local youth who lacked the means and proper support to attend and complete four-year college degrees.

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An earlier article in this column highlighted the new class of 50 Meritus Scholars -- all recent San Francisco public high school graduates about to enter their freshman year of college. All from low-income backgrounds, a majority of the graduates are the first in their families to attend college. Meritus provides scholarships and academic and career development support through higher education and in preparation for success after college. The support to these bright and ambitious students works to create self-sufficiency and help move youth out of the cycle of poverty.

Internships

This summer, through a variety of summer career development activities, Meritus Scholars can get a jumpstart on their goals post-graduation, as they apply their studies and give back to their communities through internships in the social sector. Through continued partnerships with District 6 Supervisor Jane Kim and EducationsuperHighway, plus a brand new partnership with the Kababayan Festival, the Scholars have the opportunity to explore their passions for civic engagement and notable social change.

This is an exciting topic right now, as the White House identified providing funding for low-income students to take advantage of unpaid internships as one of several best practices colleges and universities, organizations and businesses can do to make a commitment to addressing inequity (White House- 2014: Increasing College Opportunity for Low-income Students: Promising Models and a Call to Action).

Through Meritus' efforts on career development, particularly internships with all of its students – Meritus serves 200 students throughout all four years of high school and beyond -- students have access to the Meritus career development program.

Internship is part of the career development segment of the overall Meritus program. Once a student is accepted she or he receives a four-year partial scholarship to attend a four-year university, 1:1 student academic, social, and emotional coaching, and Meritus career development components: career mentors, internships, informational interviewing, etc. This is a package deal.

Beginning with an online application, students go through a rigorous selection process. Members of the San Francisco community are directly involved in reviewing student applications and selecting who to interview. Additional community members interview the students and make suggestions for selection to the program. Last year more than 300 students applied to the program and 52 finalists were chosen to become Meritus Scholars.

Admission to Meritus Scholar Program

All San Francisco public high school graduating seniors with plans to attend a four-year university may apply. They are eligible if they:

  • Earn a cumulative GPA of 3.0 – 3.7
  • Demonstrate financial need
  • Plan to attend a four-year accredited college
  • Demonstrate an outstanding personal record of achievement as determined by:
  1. Academic preparation to succeed in college
  2. Ability to overcome challenges and a desire to succeed
  3. Quality involvement with others via work, school, family, and community
  4. Focus and purpose in pursuing higher education en route to post-graduate goals

“A 2013 survey conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers emphasizes the long-term benefit of career development experiences – students who complete a paid internship are more likely to receive at least one job offer (63%) compared to those students with no internship (35%). The research also found that the starting salary for paid interns outpaced that of students who completed unpaid or no internships by approximately 40%. “[1]

Visit the Meritus website for additional information on Meritus' Career Connections program, interviews, and photos: www.meritus.org

[1] https://www.naceweb.org/s05292013/paid-unpaid-interns-job-offer.aspx

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