UNM-LA’s Community Internship Collaboration Graduates First Class

The first three interns to graduate from the Community Internship Collaboration program include, from left, Daniel Roybal, Kim Lopez and Esperanza Tapia at their graduation March 8 at UNM-LA. Photo by Bonnie J. Gordon/ladailypost.com
Interns and their mentors, from left, Cheryl Sowder and her intern Daniel Roybal; Intern Kim Lopez and mentor Kathy Anderson of CB FOX and Esperanza Tapia and her mentor Colette Levine of Journey Pacific. Photo by Bonnie J. Gordon/ladailypost.com


The Community Internship Collaboration (CIC), a new workforce development program for UNM-Los Alamos undergraduate students and Los Alamos High School juniors and seniors, held its first graduation Tuesday, March 8 at UNM-Los Alamos.

The event was attended by the interns, their mentors, representatives from the supporting organizations, and members of the community.

A second session is now underway with another 15 students placed in internships around Los Alamos. Those interns are slated to graduate the program in May.

The Community Internship Collaboration is a joint partnership of the Los Alamos National Laboratory, Los Alamos National Security, LLC, UNM-Los Alamos, Los Alamos High School (LAHS), and the Small Business Development Center. The collaboration’s objectives are to give students learning opportunities in business settings, while also providing local businesses with interns eager to contribute to the success of their business at no cost to them.  The program is made possible by a financial investment from Los Alamos National Security, LLC.

The new program was launched with a small number of students last fall, as a pilot program to test the concept.

Kim Lopez gets a hug from mentor Kathy Anderson. Photo by Bonnie J. Gordon/ladailypost.com
Kim Lopez, a junior at LAHS, worked at CB FOX with mentor Kathy Anderson, learning the ins-and-outs of a fast paced retail environment. Daniel Roybal, a business major at UNM-LA, did an internship with Cheryl Sowder at The Finishing Touch, where he was able to help with the marketing and in-store displays. Esperanza Tapia, also a junior at LAHS, worked with her mentor Colette Levine, who is the owner of Journey Pacific Travel Agency. Tapia worked on the company’s promotion and operations.

“Over the course of 4 months that I worked at CB FOX as an intern through the Community Internship Collaboration program, I gained a tremendous amount of knowledge of running a business in a small town,” Lopez said. “I had a great opportunity working through the holidays and getting the rush of a busy Saturday.”

When asked what she learned, Lopez added “At CB Fox I took inventory, made purchase orders, and had the chance to work with customers. I gained many valuable skills such as time management, communication styles and much more. There are no words to describe my amazing experience being an intern at CB Fox.”

“The Community Internship Collaboration is a great opportunity for students to gain a hands-on work experience with a local business in conjunction with their academic studies,” mentor Cheryl Sowder said. 

Mentor Cheryl Sowder, owner of The Finishing Touch, with her intern Daniel Roybal. Photo by Bonnie J. Gordon/ladailypost.com

“As one of the business partners this year, The Finishing Touch also had a great opportunity,” Sowder said. “We needed a young, computer savvy person to help us develop our on-line marketing presence. Daniel Roybal, a bright, energetic, capable intern, quickly became an asset to my organization. As his mentor, I was able to help guide Daniel through the project and to give him a glimpse of the world beyond school. Equally important to me–at times the mentor became the student and I learned from Daniel, as well. All in all, a very rewarding experience!”

Mentor Colette Levine, owner of Journey Pacific, with her intern Esperanza Tapia. Photo by Bonnie J. Gordon/ladailypost.com
“I got to learn about places I’d never even heard of!” Tapia said about working for Journey Pacific. “My favorite project was creating a slide show for Travel Night at Fuller Lodge. I also updated the website and created flyers for the resorts we worked with.”

Social media and contracts were two of the things Tapia learned about when she got behind the scenes at a small business.

All of the students stressed that time management was one of the most important skills they learned.

Of the three recent CIC graduates, two have been offered jobs to stay on and work at their respective organizations.

For the second session, which is currently underway, 21 students applied for positions ranging from marketing to software development. Of those, 15 matches were made.

“Not only do the students have to apply to the program, but the organizations do so as well,” CIC Coordinator Laura Loy said. “They really put a lot of thought into how an intern could add value to their organization. The list of internships was extremely impressive.”

Prospective business mentors attended an evening workshop Jan. 11, which covered not only the program logistics, but also included a segment by guest speaker Lauren Addario from Highlands University. Addario talked about the “Internship Economy” and took the group through a series of topics and exercises related to being an effective mentor.

Organizations sponsoring interns for the spring semester are: High Flyers Gymnastics, UNM-LA Science Department, Los Alamos Daily Post, Fuller Lodge Art Center, Bandelier National Monument, Legacy Now Lived, Bathtub Row Brewing, Abba Technologies, Los Alamos Historical Society, Bradbury Science Museum Association, Pajarito Environmental Education Center, Los Alamos Main Street, ZaXa Software, and Bernadette Naranjo Farmers Insurance.

Students are paid by the program for up to 60 hours throughout the 15-week session. They also attend a series of classes at UNM-LA for which they receive academic credit.

A graduation for the current session’s students will be held in May at UNM-LA, at which each intern will give a short presentation on his or her internship experience.

To learn more about this program, contact Loy at lloy@unm.edu.


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