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By The Skanner News | The Skanner News
Published: 08 April 2009

Step It Up, Inc., a Portland-based nonprofit focused on youth workforce development, believes it's good for business to support local high school students in obtaining summer work experience.
The program is actively seeking new Portland business partners who are willing to help with the $3,000 per intern cost.
"These students are Portland's workforce of the future," says Linda McNeill, Step It Up, Inc.'s executive director and one of its founders. "They urgently need the support of local businesses to help them develop the skills necessary to meet the needs of the business sector."
Every year Step It Up, Inc. recruits career-aspiring high school juniors for their Internship Program. If students make it through a round of interviews with its staff and board of directors, they are connected with a local business related to their career-field of interest. The organization connects students to business partners in over a dozen fields, and recruits new business partners every year based on students' career interests.
Launched in 2004, the Step It Up, Inc. Internship Program helps businesses two ways. First, it provides a pre-screened, semi-skilled, interested student to take on short-term projects during a part-time or full-time summer internship. By the time a business partner interviews a potential intern, that student has already chosen a career path, passed a screening, and received interview advice and resume help.
"Past interns offer career achievement tips, too, and the younger students listen to what they have to share about their work experience," McNeill said.
Secondly, the program helps businesses plan for the future. "The summer intern we hired in 2004 is now in college and a dedicated, hard-working employee," said James Thomas, president of GLUMAC, a local electrical and mechanical engineering firm. "We think Step It Up, Inc. has the best internship program in Portland." 
The group says some 40 percent of Step It Up, Inc.'s student-interns have been hired by their sponsoring business partner, while 80 percent have gone on to attend college.
Supporters say Step It Up, Inc. helps the local economy by preparing students for the rigors of the workforce and giving them the incentive to follow a career path that is meaningful and interesting to them.
Step It Up, Inc.'s Internship Program has been so successful that two more programs have been added. Staff realized in 2005 that successful graduates of the Internship Program needed ongoing assistance with college application forms, scholarship forms, and Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The Career Achievement Program was developed to fill this need.
In 2006 Step It Up, Inc. created the Pre-Internship Program for high school freshman and sophomores who needed help with career exploration, but who were too young for the flagship Internship Program. "We now serve students from incoming high school freshmen through the age of 24," McNeill said.
The program also provides students with the documented work experience they need to graduate from high school. In January of 2007, the Oregon Department of Education (ODE) voted to adopt new high school graduation requirements that require all students to "participate in experiences that connect classroom learning with the workplace and community." ODE refers to these requirements as Career-Related Learning Experiences and over 50,000 Oregon high school students will be seeking these experiences before 2013.
The group pays a stipend to interns and covers transportation expenses to and from the business partner location. Step It Up, Inc. staff also develops student workbooks and advisor guidebooks to help all participants complete ODE documentation requirements.
To become a Step It Up, Inc. business partner or to make a donation, contact Linda McNeill at mcneill_linda@step-it-up.org or 503-284-1640.

Step It Up, Inc. has a number of fund raising events planned for 2009 with a goal of raising $100,000. The inaugural event is a Calendar Tea Party, Saturday, May 2 at the Montgomery Park Banquet Room. The event promises great food, a silent auction, and Dr. Preston Pulliams, president of Portland Community College as the keynote speaker. The audience will also hear from Internship Program graduates. 
To purchase tickets for the event contact Kaitlin Ellson at kellson.step-it-up@yahoo.com or 503-284-1640.

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