Jungle Disk is located in the heart of downtown at Geekdom. For Stacy Carrisalez, who will be the first in her family to attend college, a summer internship at the small cybersecurity company grew her education goals to include a Master’s in Computer Science. The tech company paired her with a college intern and exposed her to every aspect of the job—from product development to marketing.
Behind the scenes is SA Works. The organization works on the preventative side of the economic development equation, connecting students with paid internships to support economic mobility for them, their families, and ultimately our community-at-large, and supporting target industries in meeting their employment demands. “[SA Works] wanted us to see the bigger picture because one of their goals is to help San Antonio prosper,” Stacy said. “It’s not only our home—we’re given the opportunity to be contributors and they made us see that we’re part of this.”
“Our future talent is in our classrooms today,” Executive Director Romanita Matta-Barrera added. “The difference that gainful employment can make in someone’s family and their future, it’s a change maker, it really is.” What Stacy liked most about the internship, she said, a smile breaking out across her face, was that she “got to see what it was like to get paid for using my brain.” Stacy was one of 899 students who interned across 35 employers last year.
Stacy attends Phoenix Middle College, a partnership between the San Antonio Independent School District and Palo Alto College that allows juniors and seniors to work towards industry certifications and earn college credit.
In addition to facilitating internships and job shadows for students, SA Works partners with Alamo STEM Workforce Coalition to connect teachers to employers so they can better prepare students for in-demand careers from the classroom. Through these externships, teachers develop their own skills as educators, increasing student awareness of and preparation for careers. In this way, they are further working to retain talent in our city.
Like Stacy, Brandeis High School senior Sofia Angeles is a natural cheerleader for SA Works. Last summer, she landed a paid internship with the purchasing department at Bexar County. “I went to the purchasing department not knowing what procurement was and at the end I was like ‘oh an RFP—got it,’ or ‘you need a purchasing presentation—got it,’” she said with a chuckle. “People tell you that you have to be ready for the real world, but what I realized is that we’re living in the real world now.” Sofia said the internship meant a lot to her, but added that “the program itself means a lot to the community,” helping connect youth to employment opportunities, exposing them to a wide array of careers and creating real investment in future generations. “You can start your career at any time in your life. SA Works taught me that,” she said.