Taco Bell Foundation Kicks Off “Graduate to Go” Internship Program

Taco Bell Foundation Kicks Off "Graduate to Go" Internship ProgramTaco Bell Foundation for Teens has hired six Boys & Girls Club teens to participate from July through October in the Graduate to Go internship program. The three-month position will expose teens to high potential careers. Teens also will serve as “social media reporters,” sharing their career experiences through digital media.  

During the program, the teens will shadow business professionals and participate in company and community events, chronicling their experiences online. Examples include career training at the Taco Bell Restaurant Support Center in Irvine, California, interaction with local Taco Bell business partners and vendors, and participation in the Keystone Regional Conference, a teen leadership event hosted by Boys & Girls Clubs of America.  Interns will all be awarded a $10,000 educational scholarship, all-expense-paid travel during the program, a digital camera and an iPad.

“Our Graduate to Go interns are exceptional teens on the path toward graduation despite significant hardships.  We want to reward their perseverance with a life-changing, internship experience,” said Bob Fulmer, executive director Taco Bell Foundation for Teens.  “Our hope is that through this program, we will not only inspire our interns with their own career goals, but also that their digital stories will encourage others to stay in school.”

In addition, interns will receive franchisee training at the Taco Bell Franchise Convention in Las Vegas and have the opportunity to speak with and hear from some of these successful business men and women.  “As a Taco Bell franchise owner, I am proud to be a part of an organization that continues to provide teens with real-world experiences that inspire them to stay in school and graduate,” said Lee Mitchell, Taco Bell Franchisee.  “These teens have bright futures ahead, and I look forward to seeing them develop as business and community leaders.”

The 2011 Graduate to Go Interns were nominated by their Clubs because they exemplify focus and determination in life and at school.  Each teen has overcome exceptional personal obstacles while remaining motivated to graduate from high school as a path to a better life.  The winning teens are: Pearl Seymour, 16, from the Pieper Hillside Boys & Girls Club in Milwaukee, WI; Marco Velazquez, 16, Shopneck Club, Brighton, CO; Tabitha Sanchez, 17, Los Angeles Harbor Club, San Pedro, CA; Yaritza Rivera, 17, Central Florida Club, Kissimmee, FL; Tanicqua Harris, 17, Greater Houston Club, Houston, TX; and William Webb, 17, Mount Pleasant Club, Cleveland, OH.  

“I am so excited to be a Taco Bell Intern,” said Tabitha Sanchez, 17, of the Boys & Girls Club of Los Angeles Harbor. “Since I was born premature because of my mother’s drug addiction, no one thought I would survive, let alone be the first in my family to go to college. This internship will be a significant step forward for me. It will help me gain real experience, which I can teach to the Club kids who help me with the Club’s weekly podcasts.”

Other teens have overcome equally remarkable odds to earn the Graduate to Go internship including family tragedies, financial struggles, and a lack of parental support. One teen took care of her family while her father was in prison and her mother was recovering from illness and coping with alcoholism.  Another was forced to move to cities multiple times due to financial struggles and was bullying. These remarkable teens have all risen above their circumstances and have proven their dedication to their education and personal aspirations.

Interns will chronicle their experiences online at www.facebook.com/Graduatetogo.

Graduate To Go is a multi-year initiative led by the Taco Bell Foundation for Teens to shine a spotlight on the high school dropout crisis and encourage teens to get their diploma. The initiative also helps fund real-world experiences, such as job training and college preparation, proven to motivate teens to stay in school. This year, the Foundation will distribute more than $3 million in local Graduate to Go grants to over 300 teen-serving organizations.  

The high school dropout rates are staggering in America, with one student dropping out of high school every 26 seconds. While more than three-quarters of white and Asian students earn a high school diploma, just 58 percent of Hispanic, 57 percent of African-American, and 54 percent of Native American students graduate.(1)

Since 1995, the Taco Bell Foundation for Teens and its supporting programs have helped more than 500,000 teens stay in school and on the path to graduation through its national partnership with Boys & Girls Clubs of America and affiliation with other non-profit organizations.

(1) “Graduation in the United States,” EPE Research Center (2011).