More than 200 young U.S. Latinos completed internships last year, which could lead to jobs historically difficult for them to access. Unpaid positions sometimes lead to permanent jobs but can be challenging for first-generation college students, in New Mexico and elsewhere, who often work full-time while completing a degree.
Now, the MANO program through the Hispanic Access Foundation can help.
Michelle Neuenschwander, project director for the foundation, said connecting Latinos with organizations and federal agencies offering paid professional development and training builds future leadership capacity.
"These programs really allow us to reach and connect with underrepresented and undeserved communities who have the passion, and the skills and the experience, to be in these roles," Neuenschwander explained.
She pointed out a majority of interns are connected to positions offered by the federal government, but Hispanic Access is now branching out to connect with state agencies and foundations, eventually hoping to place more young people at for-profit corporations.
Alexa Martin, a former intern in the MANO Project, gained experience with the U.S. Forest Service doing field work in an outdoor landscape. Martin, who grew up in Las Vegas, said she was grateful to learn more about how runoff from mines can affect an area's land, water and ecosystem.
"We didn't have a lot of forestry work, we didn't have a lot of natural-resource work," Martin recounted. "And having been a first-generation college student and not really knowing what was out there, this kind-of just showed me what I could do; what was possible for me."
Neuenschwander emphasized ideal internship candidates are future leaders of color who have a passion for serving and strengthening their communities.
"This is really important, especially in the government space, because currently, the majority of the workforce is retiring soon -- so, older, white and males -- and so, the goals for these agencies are trying to diversify their workforce," Neuenschwander noted.
She added internship and fellowship programs serve diverse career fields related to cultural and heritage preservation, engineering, and conservation education, as well as communication and business fields.