A coalition of funders and employers are teaming up to provide 500 high school students across the Kansas City metro with paid summer professional experiences.
“It’s really important that we come together as a community for these types of initiatives to make sure our young people are really connecting the dots and moving onto the next stage in their life,” said Frank James Jr., who serves as the employer coordinator for Pro X — the organization leading the coalition.
Pro X is a relaunched version of the former Entrepreneurship KC with new partnerships, programming and opportunities for students. The program is starting with 500 students in 2022, but aims to grow to meet the needs of thousands in the future, James said Monday during an announcement event at Plexpod Westport Commons alongside Quinton Lucas, Kansas City mayor, and Frank White, Jackson County executive.
The five-week internship runs from June 6 to July 7, with a showcase event July 8 for students to present what they learned. Students are set to receive a $1,250 student stipend — paid for by Pro X, rather than the employer. The application deadline for interested employers is April 10.
“These students are developing real strategies that these businesses are putting into practice; they’re actionable,” said Julie Robinson, executive vice president and director of account leadership at Trozzolo Communications Group, which participated in the initiative before its rebrand to Pro X.
“… [Their] ideas and solutions will impact real Kansas City businesses; so we just can’t wait to get started.” Robinson continued, offering a testimonial about the program and teasing the excitement to come this summer. “We are really anticipating even bigger and better results than last year. I feel like just our small exposure to this group of students lets me know that our city is in great hands with our next generation.”
Are you an employer? Click here to host a student for a summer internship.
Career literacy allows students to build self-worth and self-confidence as they discover paths for their futures, said Leigh Anne Taylor Knight, executive director and chief operating officer of the DeBruce Foundation.
“These real-world learning experiences really matter for them to be able to start to learn about what they like to do and what they do well,” Taylor Knight said. “The intersection of that [begins] to open the spectrum of jobs that they will consider.”
Along with real-world workplace experiences, financial education will be provided to students on a weekly basis to guide them on how to manage their stipend, said Whitney Bartelli, the chief marketing and strategy officer at CommunityAmerica Credit Union.
“We were fortunate to participate in this program last year, and we saw real positive change in the students in their attitudes and their knowledge and their behavior with the topic of money,” Bartelli said, noting that concepts that were once unfamiliar to students became a source of confidence for them, based on an exit survey.
CommunityAmerica is adding a parent webinar at the end of the program to give parents the opportunity to experience what their children gained through Pro X, Bartelli said.
“Our mission is that every single person in Kansas City should have an opportunity to get on their path to thrive and to achieve financial peace of mind,” she said. “In doing so, you cannot ignore the young adult population.”
The Startland Education team has also partnered with Pro X to provide students with weekly training in design thinking — a framework that allows users to take a large problem and break it down into smaller pain points; the process is focused on empathy for the user who one is trying to solve for, explained Izsie Robinson, who serves as the product manager for Startland Education.
[Editor’s note: Startland Education is a sibling program to Startland News within the umbrella of parent organization Startland, a community-building 501(c)3 nonprofit activating vibrant, prosperous communities inspired by its starters — innovators, creators, and entrepreneurs.]
“We’ll take them through different phases of Design Thinking so that they can use the framework to solve problems for the clients who they will be serving in their internships,” Robinson said.
“Students have to get out of their comfort zone — but once they take that first step into design thinking and innovative thinking, they thrive. They are able to come up with solutions that we would have never thought of at the beginning of it.
“We’re really excited to be working with Pro X and continue our mission of learning outside the classroom,” Robinson continued. “I love that students don’t have to wait until college to explore a topic they’re interested in. I’ve never heard of this being done anywhere else … so it’s a unique initiative to be a part of.”
Additional Pro X partners include:
- KC Common Good
- The Kauffman Foundation
- DeBruce Foundation
- CommunityAmerica Credit Union
- Big Picture Learning
- City of Kansas City, Missouri
- The Civic Council of Greater Kansas City
- KC Rising
- Cherry Co.
- Big Picture Learning
- Support KC
In the 2021 student cohort, Keinan Ross and his team were paired with Chris Goode, founder of Ruby Jean’s Juicery. They were tasked with introducing Ruby Jean’s juices to schools within the Kansas City Public Schools system — which they ultimately accomplished.
“We’re very proud that that project was completed,” said Ross, a high school senior at the Ewing Marion Kauffman School who now serves as a student ambassador for the Pro X program.
As well as the valuable connections to the Pro X mentors, students are able to form impactful connections with one another, Ross added.
“I know I took away leadership and accountability from the internship,” Ross shared. “… Most of my team agreed that when [we] got done with the internship, if it did nothing else, it brought us together as a family — all six of us. At the end of this, we’re still keeping in contact today. We developed what I believe to be lifelong partnerships.”
This story is possible thanks to support from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, a private, nonpartisan foundation that works together with communities in education and entrepreneurship to create uncommon solutions and empower people to shape their futures and be successful.