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Institute Interns Help Business Bottom Line

Internships prove mutually beneficial.

Over the past 22 years, local companies have learned that accepting a student intern from the Summer Economic Institute is not only good citizenship but also "contributes substantially to their bottom line."

That's the goal of Jack K. Henes, director of the Institute and social studies teacher at T.C.Williams High School. "We have run into companies that can get college student interns willing to work for free to gain the experience. They ask me why should they pay to take a high school student," he said.

"My answer is that these students contribute to the bottom line. I don't want just sponsors helping students. I want the students to help and be an asset to the sponsors," Henes said.

Each corporate sponsor of the Institute makes a tax deductible $1,200 contribution to the program. The students then receive a $900 honorarium from that money. This year there were 22 participating companies and students.

"We try to recruit companies that we can match student skills and interests. This year we had one of the best match-ups we've ever had. Our array of students was one of the most diverse groups we've ever had also. They were diverse in every way -- interests, geographical, economically," Henes said.

That alignment between intern and company was particularly evident in four companies. Each corporate executive and each student expressed an unbridled satisfaction with the experience.

Antonio Howard of T.C. Williams High School interned with the Alexandria Branch, SunTrust Mortgage, under the direction of Branch Manager Frank Fannon IV and his brother Ryan Fannon. "Antonio did a great job for us. He's a very conscientious young man with a great future," Frank said.

"We wanted to get Antonio experience not only in the area of mortgage banking paper work but also in the real world of how the whole process works. We took him on everything from appraisals to settlements," Ryan said.

Following completion of his senior year at T.C.Williams, Howard hopes to attend college on an ROTC scholarship and major in business management and administration. "This experience has enabled me to start looking at the future. I am looking at enrolling in Norfolk State University or Hampton University," Howard said.

"I hope to get into an internship next summer as well. I would eventually hope to be the general manager of a retail firm, possibly in the telecommunications field," he said.

As one of the Institute's top six students, Howard gained insights to the mortgage banking business during his six weeks with Fannon. "I have learned how to keep my credit score low which is very important when applying for a mortgage," he said.

As a new branch of SunTrust, 1101 Duke St., it opened March 8, 2004 and is now the company's top producer of mortgage loans in Virginia, having closed 540 loans for a total of $119 million.

AT THE OTHER END of the financial spectrum is the investment business and financial analysis associated with portfolio growth. That was where Sruthi Thatchenkey wanted to put her efforts this summer.

As one of two Institute "Outstanding Interns" chosen this year, Thatchenkey is a senior at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in the Annandale area of Braddock Road. She was offered the chance to attend Philadelphia's Wharton School of Business summer program but decided instead to intern with the Alexandria office of Legg Mason on Duke Street.

"She has been fantastic. I've been amazed at how quickly she picks up on very complex things. One example was that her work cut what is usually a five hour job for me to 45 minutes," George N. Bauer, financial advisor and Thatchenkey's Legg Mason mentor, said.

"Sruthi has done real work for us and has saved us real amounts of time. She gets it just right. We have asked her to come back next summer. But, we would also back her if she would like to work in our corporate headquarters in Baltimore," Bauer said.

A resident of Chantilly, Thatchenkey spent last summer at the University of Virginia taking college level micro-economic classes. On her math and verbal SAT's she scored a perfect 1600.

She hopes to attend the Wharton School and specialize in financial analysis. "It's the most difficult business school in the nation to enter. If you want to be a financial analyst you go to Wharton," Bauer said. "I would probably want to go into financial research," Thactchenkey said.

Alexandria's Legg Mason office has two financial analysts on staff and Thatchenkey was able to accompany them to several corporate meeting presentations during her tenure. They both agreed, "Her intellectual capacity is unbelievable. She's 16 going on 29."

"This is our first year to take an intern in this program. We've never considered a high school student before. But, Jack convinced us. I've learned a lot through this experience. And, we were very lucky to get Sruthi," Bauer said.

ANOTHER SPONSOR who considers himself quite lucky is Richard H. Endres, president, The Washington Network, Inc., 30 S. Quaker Lane, Suite 200, Alexandria. As a company specializing in the installation and integration of telephone systems and computer networks they ended up with the other "Outstanding Intern" of the 2004 Institute.

Roger "Trip" McLead, a senior at St. Stephens & St. Agnes, was born in April 1987, just two months before Endres founded his company that June. Following high school graduation he has his sights set on the University of Virginia. "But, I'm also open to other schools such as Yale and Wake Forest," McLead said.

Endres found McLead's contributions meaningful, "We offered him employment here next summer. That's the first time I've done that, and Trip is our seventh intern ," Endres said.

"I'd definitely like to do it again," McLead said. "It really helped me that the company put so much trust in me."

Trip's primary responsibility during his internship has been to develop an interactive CD to promote the company to potential clients. "That was the main thing. But, I got to do a little of everything. Even the chance to go out and help with installing some of our systems," he said.

"I would definitely like to get into a company that is aligned with computer technology. There is so much more to know," McLead said.

Washington Network has evolved to have an even split between its telephone and computer sales and installation. Most of its clients are located in the Alexandria area, with particular emphasis on the non-profit market, according to Endres.

"Our specialty is handling the merger of telephone systems and computers. Many companies that handle only telephone systems are not familiar with this merger process," Endres said.

Concentrating on the management element of business was another T.C. Williams senior, Melina Luizaga. Her summer internship was spent with Potomac Management Group, Inc., 510 King St., Suite 200.

As a leading provider of technical and management support services to the Federal Government, they have recently been awarded a $21 million contract to provide such services to the U.S. Coast Guard National Maritime Licensing and Documentation Program. That effort falls under the aegis of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the Coast Guard's National Maritime Center.

Working under the guidance of Cathy Carney-Peters, PMG's director of Human Resources and Administration, Luizaga concentrated on the human resource side of management with particular emphasis on recruitment and employee benefits. PMG employs 125 people located in 15 cities nationwide.

An Alexandria resident for most of her 17 years, Luizaga found the experience "really enjoyable. I've learned a lot in all different aspects since it's a small company," she said. "I'd definitely do it again."

Peters said, "Most of our employees thought she was a college intern. We had her doing a lot of diverse activities."

Luizaga plans to go to college with a preference for James Madison University. "I enjoyed meeting all the new people. And, I'm more open to new things since this experience."

Other participants in this year's Institute worked in such diverse environments as Burke and Herbert Bank and Trust Co., Landmark Mall Management, Don Beyer Volvo, Metropolitan Washington Airport Authority, and Association of Fund Raising Personnel.

Under the joint sponsorship of Alexandria Public Schools, St. Stephens & St. Agnes School, and The Alexandria Chamber of Commerce, the Institute began in 1982 as a cooperative educational project between St. Stephens & St. Agnes School and the local Chamber.

It provides a challenging opportunity for rising high school seniors from public, private, and parochial schools to learn about the professional work place and its relationship to business and economics, according to Henes.

"Interns work an eight-hour a day four-day week at their place of employment. One day each week is devoted to the study of economics and applications to business through field trips, presentations by business professionals, and a variety of interactive experiences," Henes said.

"In addition to their honorariums and the opportunity for economics academic credit, scholarship awards of $1,000 each go to those selected as outstanding interns based on job performance evaluation, academic achievement, and presentations," Henes said.