Skip to main content
April 05, 2016

DES MOINES, Iowa — A partnership between Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield, Urban Dreams and Des Moines Public Schools has resulted in an innovative high school internship program for 12 North High School students. The Beacon internship program provided students with a paid 10-week vocational and educational summer internship at Wellmark. After successfully completing the summer portion, all 12 students were extended internship offers to continue working during the school year.

"We are honored to collaborate with Urban Dreams and the Des Moines Public Schools to create a unique program for the students and community of North High School," said Izaah Knox, Wellmark’s Beacon program manager. "The internship focuses on teaching young community members valuable work skills as well as how to flourish in a corporate culture."

To be eligible for the Beacon program, North High School students needed to be at a junior-level status at the time of application, hold a cumulative GPA of 2.5 or above and be on track to graduate with an acceptable attendance record. Eligible students were required to submit a cover letter and resume with their application — the final 12 interns were selected after a series of interviews.

"I'm very excited about the Beacon program and hope it's a stepping stone to further the education and professional development for each of these students," said Wayne Ford, CEO and founder of Urban Dreams. "This program is unlike any other available in the state of Iowa for high school students. The collaboration between Wellmark, Urban Dreams and North High School has created an engaging, eventful and exclusive program for these student interns which I truly believe can become a national model."

Mentoring and education programming built in

In addition to new skills and work experiences, each student was paired with a Wellmark mentor. Mentors met regularly with the interns and assisted with the students’ learning and work experience. The mentors represented a variety of departments including business technical solutions, finance, health care innovation and business development, compliance, and operations. Regular educational programming was also built into the internship; each week interns attended educational sessions focused on skill development and career readiness.

At the end of the 10 weeks, interns were evaluated using the same metrics as full-time employees. All 12 of the interns’ performances were on par with the full-time employees and they were offered the opportunity to transition into a paid school-year program. The program allows the students to continue to hone their employment skills by working two or three shifts per week with each shift lasting two to four hours.

"We learned more than just business and the work of an insurance company," said Margarita Clemente, North High School senior. "We learned how to be a professional employee. Everyone treated us with respect. It truly is an inclusive environment and I am honored to be able to continue to work with this great company throughout my senior year."

Building upon success for year two

Based on the successful pilot of the Beacon program, Wellmark is proud to offer this internship program for a second year to North High School juniors. Wellmark human resources staff has been at North High School working with students by providing resume workshops, application workshops and interview preparation workshops.

"This is one of, if not the best, corporate collaborations that we have ever participated in," said Michael Vukovich, North High School Principal. "This experience has improved the students' confidence and outlook on life. We are very excited that we are able to offer this to our students for another year."

The next round of Beacon participants will start at Wellmark following the end of the school year in June.

About Wellmark

Wellmark, Inc. does business as Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Iowa. Wellmark and its subsidiaries and affiliated companies, including Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield of South Dakota and Wellmark Health Plan of Iowa, Inc., insure or pay health benefit claims for more than 2 million members in Iowa and South Dakota. Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Iowa, Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield of South Dakota, and Wellmark Health Plan of Iowa, Inc. are independent licensees of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association.

About Urban Dreams

Urban Dreams External Site is a human service agency dedicated to serving the people, community, groups, nonprofits, for profits, and government agencies in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, education, and public safety as those pertain to underserved and underrepresented populations in urban communities.

About Des Moines Public Schools

Des Moines Public Schools External Site is Iowa’s largest provider of PK-12 education, serving 33,000 students in the state’s capital city. DMPS is also one of the metro’s largest employers, with 5,000 teachers and staff serving the educational needs of students at 60 schools throughout the district. From Advanced Placement courses to International Baccalaureate Schools to one of the nation’s premier career and technical education program, DMPS provides families with the most educational choices in Iowa.