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While high school internship programs are nothing new, one such offering put together jointly by four area school systems and Surry Community College is being touted as the first of its kind in North Carolina.

The program, Surry-Yadkin Works, officially got underway Jan. 1. Stretching across two counties, the program is a collaboration between Mount Airy City Schools, Surry County Schools, Elkin City Schools and Yadkin County Schools, along with the community college, to create a regional internship program.

The program has hit the ground running with 48 students being placed in internships for the Spring 2021 semester.

After attending a human resources development training, the students began their internships on Jan. 11, and will work through May 15. Students receive high school or college credit for their employment along with a stipend each month for travel expenses.

The program funding also is a joint effort with commitments from the Surry County and the Yadkin County boards of commissioners. An anonymous contributor donated $100,000 prompted by a presentation about the program at an educational summit.

“We are excited that our school districts in the region will be coordinating our workforce development initiatives,” said Dr. Kim Morrison, superintendent of Mount Airy City Schools. “This allows our employers in the area to work closely with our school systems to prepare the next generation of the workforce to stay in Surry County and have careers in which they thrive.

“We look forward to partnering with our colleagues in these districts preparing our students to reach their dreams.”

“I am so proud of the Surry-Yadkin Works partnership. … This partnership was created because of a recognized regional need to expand experiential learning and work-based learning opportunities for students,” said Dr. Travis Reeves, Surry County Schools superintendent.

“By putting students in local businesses, they learn soft skills including the development of a strong work ethic, a positive attitude and problem-solving while earning industry credentials and getting paid,”said Reeves. “I am appreciative of the commitment of the Surry County and Yadkin County commissioners, as well as anonymous donors who have helped to fund this effort.”

“All of the school partners have equal representation in what is truly a regional effort to create work-based opportunities for our students by creating a unifying organization for companies seeking interns,” said Dr. David Shockley, SCC president.

“Surry-Yadkin Works is special in that it covers two counties with the commissioners committing funding to the program for three years,” said Shockley. “It is unique in the state, if not the nation, especially for rural America. We are strong as individual organizations, but we are even stronger united. This partnership will also help our economic developers because they can tout the program to help attract and maintain businesses in our region.”

Crystal Folger-Hawks is the program director for Surry-Yadkin Works, and Dale Badgett is the workforce development specialist for Surry-Yadkin Works.

A virtual kickoff event is being planned on March 9, for Surry-Yadkin Works business partners and those businesses who would like to join the effort.