CHICAGO — The Chicago Summer Business Institute has 200 applications from high school students looking for an entrance to the business world, but only 100 paid internship openings — a shortage organizers say highlights the need for an upcoming fundraiser.
The Chicago chapter of Women in Public Finance is hoping the local municipal community comes out in force for a cocktail reception on Monday, May 16.
"Every dollar we get is going to increase the number of kids who get summer jobs, good summer jobs," said public finance banker Alex Rorke, head of municipals at Hilliard Lyons and co-chair of the institute board along with Elizabeth Coolidge, a managing director at PNC Capital Markets.
Alumni will talk about the role the program has played in their careers and donations will be collected with all profits from the evening being donated to support CSBI, according to the invitation.
The 26-year-old not-for-profit provides paid summer internships, business and financial literacy education and scholarships to Chicago high school students. More than 3000 have served paid summer internships leading to longstanding mentor relationships and scholarships that helped springboard some students on to college educations and jobs throughout the financial and legal professions.
The program was launched by then city finance officials Ed Bedore and Walter Knorr as well as public finance professionals as the Summer Finance Institute, with about 20 interns from inner-city schools working at public finance firms.
The program's aim was to give teens from public and private schools access to a professional environment where they learn business etiquette and dress code standards. They are also mentored by firm employees and subject to performance reviews.
The goals remained the same even as the program evolved into the Summer Business Institute and was expanded to cover accounting, commercial banking, engineering, legal, and governmental internships.
The program targets juniors and seniors with grade point averages of at least 3.0 and whose families are of low-to-moderate incomes. The students commit to a 28-hour workweek; to attend weekly workshops on networking, leadership skills, business etiquette, the financial markets, and college admissions; and to saving 25% of their pay that comes from the institute and the sponsor company.
At the conclusion, a graduation is held that's typically attended by the city's mayor and CPS leaders with top-performing students of the class awarded monetary scholarships in a rare display of mutual pride among otherwise competitive members of Chicago's public finance universe.
The reception is set for 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. May 16 at Quartino Restaurant at 626 North State Street, said Chicago chapter president Michele O'Brien.
Rorke and Coolidge said over the last two decades they've seen interns blossom from awkward teens, some of whom are visiting a downtown high rise for the first time when they come down for their interviews, into accomplished professionals who go on to mentor others.
One of Coolidge's favorite was a young woman who came from the inner city and was the first in her family to go on to college.
"She really took the program and created relationships and continued to work" for the firm Coolidge was then at, she said, and the firm was so taken with her that they helped pay for her ACT prep class. She went onto college, eventually landing at Harvard University where she received a graduate degree, and then on to a career at Wall Street firms.