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CHARLESTON — Even in times of a pandemic, learning continues in West Virginia.

That message was demonstrated recently during capstone presentations of high school interns participating in The Education Alliance’s West Virginia Ready Summer Internship program.

During their presentations — made during a zoom call July 31 with national and state leaders — the interns showcased not only the technical skills needed to do an internship during a pandemic, but also practical life skills like teamwork, professionalism and work ethic learned during their internship. Each intern gave their capstone presentation to their business’ leadership team and outlined their experience and highlighted their personal growth and future career goals.

U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito; Robert Burton, president of West Virginia American Water; Srini Matam, president of Toyota Motor Manufacturing West Virginia; and Tom O’Neal, site director of Dow Inc.; were among those observing the capstone presentations, which were hosted by The Education Alliance’s Amelia Courts and Olivia McCuskey.

The internships were hosted by West Virginia American Water, Toyota Motor Manufacturing West Virginia, and Dow Inc.

The presentations were broken into three zoom calls. Speaking during the opening presentation, Capito said additional funding to help with education during the pandemic is priority with Congress. She credited the interns for their work in virtual learning and making the most of the opportunity.

The Education Alliance’s WV Ready Summer Internship Program started last year as a four-week, paid internship program that places rising high school juniors and seniors with West Virginia businesses. In its second year, due to COVID-19, the program transitioned to a virtual internship experience that placed 15 interns from Boone, Cabell, Kanawha, Putnam, Taylor, and Wood counties.

The initiative, which was funded by grants from Toyota Motor Manufacturing WV and the Benedum Foundation, provides internship experiences to help students become “WV Ready Graduates” equipped with knowledge and skill sets needed for success after high school.

“Investing in our next generation is critical to the future success of West Virginia,” said Matam, of Toyota. “It is critical that business and community members step forward to prepare our future workforce. Toyota believes that every child deserves a chance at success and by investing in the WV Ready Internship program, we are proudly committed to helping prepare the state’s future workforce through education. With virtual training, we are able to keep our students safe amid this pandemic. The COVID-19 pandemic will not stop us from educating our students.”

Local students participating included:

  • James Scott from Huntington High School in Cabell County at Toyota Motor Manufacturing WV;
  • Tyrees Smith from Huntington High School in Cabell County at WV American Water;
  • Peyton Bielinski from Hurricane High School in Putnam at WV American Water;
  • Garrett Beller from Winfield High School in Putnam County at WV American Water;
  • Yimin Cai from Hurricane High School in Putnam County at Dow Inc.

The program is anticipated to be expanded in coming years to serve more of the state’s soon-to-be graduates, with the eventual goal being to expand statewide. To learn more, visit EducationAlliance.org/WVReadyInternships.

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