Pilot internship program offers unique experience to high school students

By Shaun Eagan DLA Troop Support Public Affairs

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As graduations commence and seniors put an end to their high school years, an initiative between the Defense Logistics Agency Troop Support and the Philadelphia School District helped a couple students cap off their senior year with more than just a diploma.

Representatives from DLA Troop Support and the Philadelphia School District gathered during a luncheon June 5 to celebrate the last week of a pilot internship program for students to gain federal work experience before graduating from high school.

“The DLA Troop Support high school internship program offers local high school students a paid working experience in a career field they are interested in, while also providing a glimpse of what it’s like to work for the Department of Defense,” Army Brig. Gen. Mark Simerly, DLA Troop Support Commander, said. “We designed the program so that interns gain valuable on-the-job training from our team, and can have a foundation to put their best foot forward once they graduate from high school.”

The pilot internship program created two positions for students interested in the communications or science career fields.

Ning Cao and Vinh Pham, who were both seniors from Northeast High School, became the first interns of the program.

“I applied for the internship because it was my last year in high school and I did not have any work experience,” Cao said. “I wanted to gain valuable work experience and earn a little bit of money towards college before I finish high school.”

A call for applications went out in the fall of 2018, and after the interview and selection process, the interns started in late December 2018 and completed the program at the end of their senior year. Their schedules were coordinated with the school district so it did not affect their grade performances, but also allowed them to work once a week.

During their time at DLA Troop Support, Cao and Pham received part-time employee benefits, training from career field experts and information about DLA employment opportunities.

Cao gained experience in the Corporate Communications office, and Pham worked alongside scientists in the Product Test Center.

Cao said the internship gave him the opportunity to experience a professional work environment, responsibilities and mentorship.

“Being an intern here has definitely helped me grow as person,” Cao said. “Meeting people that are not around my age group will help me get along with people more easily, in addition to knowing how to act professionally at certain times. I can truly say that the time I spent here has helped me in many ways and I will be applying the knowledge learned to my future internships or jobs.”

DLA Troop Support has other internship programs available, but Simerly said it was important to target new opportunities for those in the community.

“Our partnership with the Philadelphia School District is a key element for us as members of the Northeast Philadelphia community,” Simerly said. “We wanted to find ways to offer unique opportunities for high school students to gain valuable work experience and an understanding of what we do in their neighborhood.”

The Philadelphia School District Superintendent Dr. William Hite also praised the partnership with DLA Troop Support and the benefits it has preparing students for life after high school.

“This exciting initiative allowed two of our high school students to gain experience in a professional workplace setting while interning at DLA,” Hite said. “Students had the opportunity to work on skills that will help prepare them for success after high school, such as learning how to manage deadlines and how to communicate with colleagues. I look forward to the continued partnership that will provide even more students this invaluable opportunity."

Simerly said moving forward the program could expand into other career fields, but for now DLA Troop Support will continue working with the Philadelphia School District to evaluate and consider ways to create more success.  

“We’re excited about the potential that can come from this and the impact it can have on our organization, the Philadelphia School District and the students,” Simerly said. “We hope both of the interns now have a better idea of a career field they want to pursue and can leverage their experience here to gain more opportunities.”