By Alex Dean, Corporate Communications Intern at Excellus BlueCross BlueShield –
Ahmad Collier, a 2017 graduate from the University Preparatory Charter School for Young Men, was raised by a single mother who devoted herself her son.
Collier’s mom was determined to help him succeed in life, and Collier said her encouragement motivated him.
He received good grades in school, and, ultimately, he landed an internship at Excellus BlueCross BlueShield, one of the largest employers in the area.
Then, in June, Collier fulfilled another major goal.
He walked the stage at his high school graduation, accepted his diploma, and soon plans to embark on the next step of his journey: college.
He will be attending SUNY Fredonia in the fall, majoring in audio and radio production.
In doing so, he will join the growing ranks of Excellus BCBS high school interns who have not only completed high school in a school district that only graduates half its students, but he’s also earned acceptance to a major college or university.
According to Joseph Searles, corporate director of diversity and workforce inclusion at Excellus, Collier and other BCBS interns’ success represents the latest in a string of programs the company has designed to help urban students succeed in school, serve as role models and mature into successful professionals.
“We’re committed to the development and success of high school and college students, because they’re the future workforce and leaders of this community,” Searles stated. “As an employer, these programs help us attract and hire the best and the brightest talent, so we can build a workforce that is rich with diversity and creativity. We could not be prouder of the students who have interned with us, and have graduated high school, college, and have secured professional careers with Excellus BCBS or other regional employers.”
The Career Paths for Interns
The two-year high school internship program provides a unique opportunity for qualified Rochester high school students to grow as individuals and professionals, while at the same time they are paid and receive corporate experience through the program.
“When I originally started the program, I wanted to be a nurse,” Shakira Jackson, an intern who started at Excellus in 2013, said. “I didn’t really have a plan for a nursing degree, and I wasn’t sure if I was mature enough for that career path at the age of 18. [But] while interning for the Geriatrics and Palliative Care Department, it has become quite clear that nursing is, in fact, the career path for me.”
Surprised by the Opportunity
Kimani Blocker, a student at Rochester Early College International High School, is another intern at Excellus.
Blocker is an incoming senior who plans to attend Monroe Community College for two years after she graduates from high school.
Eventually Blocker hopes to move to California, where she’ll attend Oxnard College for midwifery.
Blocker works in the Human Resources Department, and she said she has appreciated the culture at Excellus BCBS, where it’s customary to say hello to everyone.
“It’s like everybody talks to each other here,” Blocker stated. “When you start working, the first person you see will say, ‘hi,’ —you don’t want to ignore them, so you have to say ‘hi’ back. You learn to talk here, and communication skills are key.”
And, Maia Duncan, the third high school intern at Excellus this year, is an incoming senior at Rochester Academy Charter School.
According to Duncan, she aspires to pursue a career in mechanical engineering, and she was surprised by the opportunity to intern at a major corporation while she was only in high school.
“I imagined myself being an intern, but always as an intern in college,” she said. “I never would’ve thought that you could be an intern like this. When I heard about the Excellus BCBS internship, I knew it was a good opportunity.”
Collier, meanwhile, credits his mother, his high school, and his internship for helping him get to where he is, as a soon-to-be college student.
Collier said his internship helped him gain valuable leadership skills, and a better understanding of what it’s like to work for a business.
“My mom encouraged me when no one else did,” he said. “She was there all the time. She was raising me, you know? As a single mom, she had to do a lot, and I love her for it.”