Gina Covert, career and technical education director for the Colorado River Union High School District and board member of Tri-State Youth Internship and Leadership, speaks at Thursday’s lunch and learn event.

BULLHEAD CITY — Tri-Sate Youth Internship and Leadership met Thursday with interested business partners, volunteers, mentors and more at bistro at Western Arizona Regional Medical Center.

Emily Stevens, chief nursing officer at WARMC and board member of Tri-State Youth Internship and Leadership, started the meeting by welcoming everyone and thanking them for being interested in the program.

The first speaker of the event was Dr. Waheed Zehri, chief of staff at WARMC and Tri-State Youth Internship and Leadership CEO and founder.

“The Tri-State Youth Internship and Leadership is a very unique organization and you’re not going to find an organization like this anywhere in the country,” said Zehri. “This is by the community helping the community. We don’t have any grant by the government and we didn’t do any fundraising, so it’s done all by the community and the businesses helping our youth.”

Zehri thanked the board, the counselors of the schools and of Mohave Community College for making the organization a successful one. He also thanked the businesses who pay an intern for six week for believing in the program.

Zehri talked a little about what the Tri-State Youth Internship and Leadership did last year then shifted his focus to the future.

“The other thing we are doing this year is that we are expanding to Kingman and Lake Havasu,” said Zehri. “In the community, we have doctors, business owners, teachers, mentors, principals and more but we all want to see a change for the better. The problem is that we want to find someone to do it for us but things are not going to change until you decide to do something. If you want to change, be a part of the change and if you want things to get better be a part of the organization and people who are trying to make a change. So be part of Tri-State Youth Internship and Leadership to better our youth, the community.”

Zehri said that their target for 2020 is to have 80 students interning; 60 in Bullhead City, 10 in Kingman and 10 in Lave Havasu City. He said that they have almost 60 Tri-state businesses that have agreed to have an intern.

Gina Covert, career and technical education director for the Colorado River Union High School District and vice president of Tri-State Youth Internship and Leadership, spoke next.

“The associate members of Tri-State Youth Internship and Leadership, who are working in a volunteer and mentor capacity, impacted the organization with so many talents and that talent pool is making this organization better,” said Covert. “Our mentors are opening their doors to a student and they are paying them, which is huge.”

Covert said that the youth of today are actively involved in the education environment but that many are not getting the needed work experience. Covert said that they still provide career exploration opportunities and career training at the elementary, junior high and high school levels.

“We still provide vocational education but they have a new name; it’s called career and technical education,” said Covert. “It has evolved over the years to incorporate modern technologies.”

Covert said that like Future Leaders of America and Future Farmers of America there are other programs called FCCLA (Future Career and Community Leaders of America), SkillsUSA, HOSA (Future Health Professionals Students of America) and Education Rising. She said they want to make sure students are walking the graduation stage with more than just a diploma — different certifications such as OSHA, NCCER, Child Development Associate and more.

“We are asking that you give them an internship we call value-added,” said Covert. “Please give them at least a minimum wage and 120 hours. The statistic says that if a student does a paid internship, you have a 60% higher chance that you will retain that individual in the field of study.”

Ann Marie Ward said part of the focus of the program should be to train future employees — and employers — by making them present employees.

“The whole point and part of this program, which you are here today, is that whatever level you can be a part of this, let’s start growing this,” said Ward.

Ward, who is running for Congress, said that when she was visiting a rural community, residents told her that the saddest thing they see in these communities is that the greatest export was the intellectual capital of the youth.

“Right now, there are shortages in every career and professional area and we want to keep our own,” she said. “This program is doing that by connecting them to industries and making sure they like where they go.”

Ward said one of the most imperative pieces of the program is giving the students work experience and decide where they want to go.

“Programs like these become the case-study all over our nation to not just start funneling to our workforce but to also build our next generation of leaders,” said Ward. “Our goal is to make sure that these kids start with the most basic parts of leadership. Like having a positive attitude, impacting the people around them, arriving early and leaving late.

“On our side, we are asking that you step up with us and either bring some interns to your business, talk to your friend who owns a business, become an associate member. These opportunities that we have to show our leadership shows an example to the students that are coming in and an example to other communities.”

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