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High school students earn tuition, professional experience from Baptist sponsorship

Every semester, eight Memphis Catholic High School students spend one to two days a week learning in an unlikely classroom. Baptist’s Corporate Communications and Corporate Human Resources departments host the students, who provide support for Baptist colleagues and learn a little about working in a professional environment. In exchange, Baptist makes a donation to pay a portion of the students’ tuition. It’s part of the Education That Works program, which Baptist has supported since its inception in 2006.

Baptist is one of a number of local organizations that supports ETW; GiVE 365, the Community Foundation’s dollar-a-day membership group, also participates in the program.

“Education That Works has so many benefits,” says Mimi Hall Uhlmann, director of Corporate Recruiting for Memphis Catholic. “The money our students earn goes to help pay over 60 percent of their tuition, and it’s the only way many low-income families can afford the college-prep education Catholic offers. On the job, they gain real skills while learning what’s expected of a good employee.”

When ETW was implemented at Memphis Catholic, the school’s graduation rate was 78 percent. For the past five years, 99 percent of Memphis Catholic seniors have graduated and over 63 percent have earned college scholarships. Sponsors have reaped similar benefits: 90 percent of ETW sponsors say their interns meet or exceed expectations for both quality and quantity of work.

“By the time our Education That Works interns finish the year, they’ve not only learned a lot but also gained confidence and leadership skills,” says Cynthia Allen, Baptist’s community involvement manager. As evidence that the students contribute more than just “busy work,” Allen recalls a former Memphis Catholic intern whose ideas and input helped her department produce the Shelby Fit app to link smartphone users with outdoor exercise information.

“I still talk to most of the interns Baptist has had through the years,” Allen says. “I’ll call to see how they are doing in college or school. This program enables Baptist to have a meaningful role in developing the future workforce of Memphis.”