Over the next nine weeks, 70 college students from eight campuses will intern at 46 Cleveland-area companies as part of Summer on the Cuyahoga (SOTC
) program. Should all go well, a percentage of those students will return to town one day on a more permanent basis, organizers say.
SOTC, an economic development initiative designed to connect talented young professionals to Northeast Ohio, kicked off its summer program last week with a reception at Pura Vida
in Public Square. Students from this year's group hail from eight SOTC partner schools: Case Western Reserve University
, Colgate, Cornell, Denison, Ohio Wesleyan, Smith, University of Chicago and Yale. They come to Cleveland from 24 states and five foreign countries.
SOTC is the only college internship program where participants fully immerse themselves in a downtown environment, says executive director Jean Koehler. By day, students will work full-time at companies and organizations such as KeyBank
and the Cleveland Museum of Art
. Nights and weekends will be spent exploring the city's cultural, civic and recreational amenities before settling in at the Fenn Tower dorms on the Cleveland State University
"These students are living as young professionals; it's real-life living," says Koehler.
Program officials will take their charges on behind-the-scenes tours of the Cleveland Museum of Natural History
and the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo
. Students will also engage in discussions on community development, and meet other YPs who chose to launch their careers in Cleveland.
SOTC's long-range goal is to have interns build networks and relocate to Greater Cleveland. To that end, the program matches new recruits with area alumni from their respective schools, some of whom are also graduates of the internship venture.
"Our interns always have a great experience," she says. "One hundred percent of last year's group had an affinity toward Cleveland and would recommend the program to their friends."
The return to the North Coast of 21 interns from last year's cohort - including 12 college graduates who accepted full-time positions here - reflects the strength of a talent-gathering effort now in its 14th year, says Koehler.
"We want to keep Cleveland on the radar of people who wouldn't come here (without the program)," she says. "If we can keep interns engaged enough to move here or even do business, our impact is going to be that much greater."
Cleveland's smaller size makes it an attractive option for a generation keen on making a difference in their community, Koehler says. SOTC leaders make sure to introduce interns to local changemakers, yet another way to ensure the program's influence lasts well beyond the summer.
"You can be a big fish in a small town here," says Koehler. "If you want to make that kind of impact, it's easier to do it in Cleveland than in New York or Boston."