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The INROADS to Kaiser Permanente

California, home to more than 23 million people, is the land of dreams and ambition. For college students and recent graduates, dreams and ambitions of a professional...

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California, home to more than 23 million people, is the land of dreams and ambition. For college students and recent graduates, dreams and ambitions of a professional, full-time job have been impacted by high unemployment rates and declining wages.

Kaiser Permanente Southern California (KPSC) witnessed the disparities in economic opportunities for graduates of color who are struggling to secure full-time, engaging careers that pay a living wage. The INROADS internship program partners with Kaiser Permanente Learn About Unlimited New Careers in Health Care (K.P. L.A.U.N.C.H.), to encourage college students from diverse backgrounds to consider careers in health care. The program is funded by KPSC Community Benefit and helps the selected interns hone their professional skills to better prepare them for full-time employment after graduation.  

For 30 years, K.P. L.A.U.N.C.H. has worked with INROADS to place talented minority students in summer internship opportunities. INROADS founder, Frank C. Carr, began INROADS in 1970 “to develop and place talented minority youth in business and industry and prepare them for corporate and community leadership.” The goal of these internships is to give the underrepresented students meaningful corporate experiences. When students fulfill and excel in the requirements of the internship, they are invited to intern at Kaiser Permanente for consecutive summers. Upon graduation, many students are extended the opportunity for full-time employment in their departments.

For Tunika Onnekikami, a rising sophomore at the University of Pennsylvania, the road to an internship in the public affairs department was competitive.

“When I think about how many people try to get into INROADS and how many actually make it, I’m amazed,” said Onnekikami. “There are literally thousands of students who try to make it into the INROADS organization.”

Selected students complete a nine-week work experience that gives a glimpse into potential career opportunities. With a “HealthTrac” for students interested in health care or pharmaceuticals, and a “BusinessTrac” for students who want careers outside of the medical office, Kaiser Permanente provides an array of opportunities.

“An internship through Kaiser Permanente exposes a student to many aspects of the corporate world,” said Journey Benson, a junior at California State University, Long Beach and first-year intern. “The pay is great, the people are great, and the company is great. The student will gain communication, organizational, time management, and detail-oriented skills while working for Kaiser Permanente.”

Although internship opportunities at Kaiser Permanente are limited and INROADS is competitive, Benson urges students not to be deterred by the rigor. “I would encourage any interested student to apply for the program because the opportunity and experience is excellent. I did not think I would be chosen out of 5,000 applicants, but I’m glad I decided to apply anyway.”

As a senior communications student at Huston-Tillotson University in Austin, Texas, it is important for me to find a career in corporate America that can foster both personal and professional growth.  I thoroughly enjoy being in intern in the Integrated Brand Communications department because I am able to write and be creative on a daily basis. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting, working with and learning from Kaiser Permanente members, physicians, employees and staff members.

This summer, KPSC has been the land of dreams and ambitions for 28 interns. Through INROADS and KP L.A.U.N.C.H., these students have turned the plight of limited employment prospects into opportunities, including the possibility of full-time employment upon graduation. With the support and guidance of INROADS and Kaiser Permanente, these future leaders have become part of the California dreamers living their ambitions.

By Quiaira Terrell-White