Mentors step up for Twin Cities youth

April 10, 2017 | GET MORE : Life

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This public-private internship program is paying off for both students and businesses.

An internship can be a foot in the door. A mentor on the other side can be a life-changer. 

Minneapolis teller Carlos Lara joined U.S. Bank as a paid intern in 2015 through the City of Minneapolis Step-Up Achieve program. It was there he connected with branch manager Rene Madrid, who not only taught Lara the ins and outs of being a banker but opened his eyes to a potential career path. 

"The work [at U.S. Bank] has helped me understand some of the things I was learning in school and how they applied to the real world. It has also helped me decide my own direction," said Lara, in a recent mentor spotlight Q&A with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation

Creating that pathway to workforce success is a core tenet of the Step-Up Achieve program, which was co-founded by U.S. Bank CEO Richard Davis and then-Minneapolis mayor RT Rybak in 2004. They aimed to develop tomorrow’s workforce, connect businesses with the next generation of diverse talent and reduce the achievement gap in the Twin Cities. 

And it has… Since its founding, Step-Up has created more than 8,000 paid internship opportunities with 170 companies in the region. U.S. Bank specifically has given $100,000 in grant funds since 2007 and since 2004 has created 346 Step-Up Achieve internships – more than any other private sector employer. Recognizing the program’s success and impact in its workforce, U.S. Bank is also a major supporter of similar programs Right Track and Wallin Education Partners. 

"I am very glad that U.S. Bank participates in [these programs]," said Madrid. "I feel like it’s a really important way of investing in the future workforce. And I really hope I can make an impact on kids like Carlos."

And he has… 

"Rene has helped me so much, not only professionally, but personally. Having such a supportive person in my life has made such a difference," said Lara.

Pat Swanson is a member of U.S. Bank's corporate communications team.