Massachusetts High School Students May Lose Internship Program

State Senate looks to cut funding as part of a larger effort to balance budget.

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Balancing Massachusetts's state budget may mean the demise of a program that helps secure internships for thousands of high school students across the state each year, the Boston Globe reports.

Recommendations to cut funding for the "school to career" program—which provided jobs for nearly 15,000 high school students in 2008—came from members of the state Senate and are part of a broader effort to balance next year's budget, which is projected to have a deficit of $1.5 billion. But those who support the internship program argue that it provides an invaluable opportunity for high school students to explore the working world and to see why a high school or college degree would benefit them.

Seventeen-year-old Telma Talla is one of these beneficiaries. Her work last summer as an operating-room assistant at Boston's St. Elizabeth's Medical Center solidified her aspirations to become a surgeon. Though Talla spent most of her time making sure operating rooms were stocked with essential items like latex gloves, she also had the opportunity to witness heart and brain surgery.

"Not many students have the opportunity or the courage to see those operations," Talla says. "It must feel good giving someone a second chance to live again."

Toby Romer, headmaster at Brighton High School near Boston, where Talla is a senior, says ending the program could have a drastic effect on the state's ability to prepare students for college. When students return to school each fall after completing the summer internships they secured through the school-to-career program, Romer routinely notices a difference in how the students carry themselves, from their more sophisticated dress to their more articulate speech.

The program's participating employers pay the interns' salaries, but the state covers the costs of running the program and paying the staffers who work with businesses across the state to design the internships. The funding cuts are not expected to affect students who have already secured summer jobs through the program, but they will very likely have an impact on internship placements for this fall. State Sen. Steven Panagiotakos insists the proposed cuts are a "reflection of the fiscal realities and not the value of the program."

[See more K-12 news.]

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