By Anthony Salamone The Morning Call (Allentown, Pa.)
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) The "Futuro Empresarios" program -- Spanish for "future entrepreneurs" connects students with employers about future career prospects. This summer 25 participants in the Lehigh Valley are spending 5 weeks at paid internships to learn and explore what's "out there."
Carrying a laptop and walking the halls of Olympus Corporation of the Americas, Stephanie Santaella could pass for any of the hundreds of employees at the company's major headquarters building in Center Valley.
"At first, coming to a big company was challenging," she said, mentioning how she had to escape her "comfort zone," speak in public and meet new people.
"Especially, like, older people," the Easton resident said.
But when her mentor, Carlos Huaman, exclaimed "ouch" at "older people," she quickly rebounded."With experienced professionals."
The 17-year-old Santaella, who will be a senior at Easton Area High School, spent five weeks this summer as one of 25 participants at approximately 20 employers in "Futuro Empresarios" -- Spanish for future entrepreneurs -- a program that connects students with employers about the prospects of future careers.
Santaella said she had aspirations of becoming a physician assistant, but after participating in the internship organized by the nonprofit Fe Foundation, she is considering working either in pharmaceutical marketing or health care management.
"Just listening to that makes me so happy," Huaman said, "because at the end of the day, the Fe Foundation's purpose and mission is to expose students to different opportunities. And I am so happy to hear that she got that out of this experience."
Students such as Santaella, who are entering their junior or senior years of high school, received one week of life and office skills, computer training and business basics while on campus at DeSales University. The next four weeks, they spent time with Lehigh Valley employers in paid internships.
The program is free to students, and they received a $400 paycheck at the end of their internships. Olympus, in celebration of its 100th anniversary, also offered $100 in textbook credits to Santaella if she goes to college.
Fe Foundation operates mostly on support from Lehigh Valley employers. Although most student participants are Hispanic and from inner-city neighborhoods, the program is open to any underserved students.
Jesalyn Cruz of Allentown is learning the ins and outs of global sales at ATAS International in Upper Macungie Township with Joao Da Costa, director of international business development.
"The internship has allowed me to learn about international business and experience it hands on," said Cruz, a senior at Lincoln Leadership Academy Charter School in east Allentown.
ATAS President Dick Bus said his company, which manufactures energy-efficient building products, previously donated to the Fe Foundation, but he asked for an intern this summer.
"My focus is on getting kids exposed, to develop entrepreneurs," said Bus, who is also involved in other student-sponsored programs, including "What's So Cool About Manufacturing?" created by Manufacturers Resource Center.
Program organizers try to match students' internships with their interests, Fe Foundation Executive Director Myra D. Pina said.
"We try to pair them or find that Hispanic person who can serve as the mentor or coordinator at the site," Pina said, "so the student can see that this person is like me, and if the person can do it, so can I."
Ruben De La Cruz of Allentown was among the first graduates of the program, which turned 10 this year. He spent his internship at health insurance provider Aetna.
"It was cool to see the inner workings of a Fortune 500 company," said De La Cruz, now a financial analyst at Thermo Fisher Scientific in Upper Saucon Township, a biotechnology product development company headquartered in Waltham, Massachusetts, that's also on the Fortune 500 list.
De La Cruz, who was born in the Dominican Republic and moved with his family to Allentown while in high school, credits Valley employers of Hispanic descent who "cared about my future." He said he tries to attend Futuro Empresarios events and give testimonials about the program.
Other students say Futuro Empresarios opened their eyes to life after high school.
"The internship is very useful, because it gets us to be exposed enough to see if we are interested [in a career]," said Julian Burgos, a junior at Northampton Area High School who has been learning about computer-aided design and other software at engineering company Lehigh Valley Technical Associates in East Allen Township.
At Olympus, Huaman, a credit risk manager responsible for the company's Latin America territory, said about two dozen employees have spent time with Santaella to give her various work experiences.
One day, she spent time with college interns looking at various Olympus medical devices and how they are used in surgeries. "They took a class on training on the medical devices," Santaella said. "It was a bunch of stations and it was hands on. We also got to watch a couple of surgeries using the devices. That was cool."
FUTURO EMPRESARIOS The current crop of Futuro Empresarios students celebrated their graduation Saturday at DeSales University. For more information about Futuro Empresarios, visit Fe Foundation's website: www.fe-foundation.org; email [email protected]; or call 610-841-1128. ___ Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.