School is out and summer is here. That means dozens of high school students are reporting to their summer interns with Project Pull. But this year’s internships are looking very different because San Francisco extended its shelter-in-place order indefinitely to continue flattening the curve of COVID-19.
Starting June 15, 50 students will begin their internships and learn more about their fields of interest and will virtually meet with mentors who teach them about their fields of interest. Though they will be learning the ropes of various City professions from home, the interns are ready to log on and get to work.
Thirty four years ago, when SFPUC General Manager Harlan L. Kelly, Jr. started working for the City and County of San Francisco, he saw the need for increasing diversity in our local government, particularly in the STEM fields. Ten years later, as mid-level managers in City government, Robert Mason and him took action and tried to make a difference.
“Our concept was to put in place a resilient, immersive program that pulled up diverse young people into new spheres of knowledge and experience, and help them gain confidence and a sense of purpose when it came to pursuing education and opportunity,” said Kelly.
Project Pull began as a pilot paid internship program in 1996 and took off as a full-fledged and expanded program the following year, with more youth participants and City department sponsors. With its innovative on-the-job training component, the Program needed to be curated frequently and fastidiously in order to keep current with the rapidly changing times. What has not changed is the dedication of the generous, forward-thinking City employees, past and present, who have mentored Project Pull participants over the years.
This summer, interns will have the opportunity to virtually meet and interact with several career mentors. Each week they will complete tasks given to them by their career mentors that will help them gain a deeper understanding of their fields of interest. In addition, interns will continue to participate in virtual Friday enrichment activities such as Community Service, Resume Building, Mock-Interviews, and of course, interactive games designed by their Team Leaders.
“We want to ensure that although Project Pull is being delivered through a different platform, that the experience remains the same,” said Project Pull Program Manager Lisa Miles-Wilkerson.
“Project Pull has continued to evolve over the past 24 years, ensuring a successful program for our interns. This year, which will be the 25th summer, brings unprecedented change as the coronavirus pandemic has caused a major shift in how mentors and interns will communicate,” said Miles-Wilkerson. Project Pull program managers have created a virtual platform so that the program may continue to serve San Francisco youth and provide program participants with a paid internship.
“From those modest beginnings, we became a more sophisticated program with each passing year,” shared Kelly. “Reflecting on our commitment as mentors, I think we are guided by three simple words: Always Aim High.”