Hodges celebrates STEP-UP’s successful summer

A six time STEP-UP intern and Aajaze Davis, 19, knows he wants to work for U.S. Bank, where he interns this summer.

“Being here is just so great, I love what I’m doing and it’s such a great experience,” Davis said. “I don’t have to come into work and think it’ll be repetitive. I’m always learning something new that’s going to help me.”

STEP-UP matches kids from Minneapolis between the ages of 14 and 21 with paid summer internships at one of about 230 participating businesses.

As the summer comes to a close, more than 800 employers, interns and community partners gathered at the Guthrie Theatre on Aug. 18 to celebrate STEP-UP award winners, interns of the year, including employers of the year and supervisors of the year.

Davis — born for the role — emceed. “I’ve never been a person who’s afraid to express who I am,” he said.

This summer, 89 percent of participants were youth of color and 36 percent come from immigrant families, according to a news release from the city.

Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges presented several awards at the celebration, alongside R.T. Rybak, president and CEO of The Minneapolis Foundation, and Richard Davis, chairman and CEO of U.S. Bank.

“The number one indicator of future workforce success is early exposure to work experience,” Hodges said. “This is why I am committed to continued investment in programs like STEP-UP that provide our driven young people with opportunities that set them up for future professional success.”

U.S. Bank, a winner of the program’s employer of the year award, has partnered with STEP-UP since its inception in 2004, according to Jennie Carlson, executive vice president of human resources.

“These students are our future workforce,” Carlson said. “Investing in them helps develop a new generation of dynamic leaders and vibrant communities.”