‘It made me more confident’: New Hamilton minority internship program changing lives

An internship program that started in October already has improved employment prospects for 23-year-old Lucina Rangel of Hamilton.

“If I would have never gone through the program, I feel like it wouldn’t have been as bright,” Rangel said of her future, thanks to CHIPs (Citywide Hamilton Internship Program).

“I always felt like there was something that I could do, but I could never figure out how to get myself there. You feel like you’re not living up to your potential, but don’t know how to get there.”

The CHIPs program is aimed at Black residents and other people of color from ages 16-30. It was created as part of Hamilton’s diversity and inclusion efforts, intended to help minorities enjoy employment and social opportunities that many white people take for granted.

Rangel is a mother of two who came from an impoverished background. She attended Hamilton High School and is pursuing her GED.

Before her internship in the YMCA’s marketing and communications area, “I didn’t feel very confident going into the YMCA. And then, throughout my time there, it made me feel comfortable in my own skin. It made me more confident.”

“I loved it. I did better than I expected,” she said. “The environment itself was really comforting. It felt welcoming. I never felt judged or out of place.”

She now is being considered for a position with the YWCA.

“If this was before my internship at the YMCA, I would have been sitting here, nervous and panicky, like, ‘Oh my gosh, should I tell them yeah, should I tell them no? I don’t know,’” she said. “But it wasn’t like that this time. My answer was immediately, ‘Yes, I’m interested.’”

She was one of seven interns in a test program this fall.

The 12-week internships pay $15 per hour for 15-20 hours per week, and the first group of interns worked at the city of Hamilton, the YMCA, the Booker T. Washington Community Center and Telhio Credit Union. Easterseals helped provide funding for the program.

In March, organizers plan to expand the mentorships so 30 can be interns. Other internships will be offered over the summer and during the fall. The summer internships will target students ages 16-18.

City residents between 16 and 30 can fill out applications on the CHIPs website, www.chipshamilton.com. More information also is available by emailing chips@hamilton-oh.gov, or calling 513-785-7186.

In addition to people who are looking for their first full-time jobs, ”it gives people a chance to do a re-set,” said Charmina Curtis, who teaches leadership, marketing and management at Miami University. “In your late teens and early 20s, you may have made some mistakes. But you’ve turned your life around, things have changed for you, and you want an opportunity to make a difference.”

“We want to give you that pathway to be as successful as you so choose to be, because we do believe there’s a lot of untapped talent in our community and in communities in general,” Curtis said.

Jeanne Pope, Hamilton’s civil service and personnel director, said she wants the CHIPs website to be not only for prospective interns, but also for companies or organizations that want to offer internships.

“That helps organizations better recruit persons of color, and create a better pathway for diversity,” Pope said. “We’ve already had interest from companies in Cincinnati.”

In addition to the internship, CHIPs taught Rangel and her colleagues about things like 401k retirement planning and the benefits of compounding interest. They also learned about volunteering opportunities locally.

“It opens your eyes in ways they’ve never been opened, and shows you that opportunities are there for not just other people, but for us as well,” she said.

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