By Cassie McClure
Published in Las Cruces Bulletin 7.8.22
New Mexico Public Education Department (PED) funded Doña Ana County’s (DAC) 2022 Summer Enrichment Internship Program for the second year. The program allows high school students to work with private businesses and government agencies like Las Cruces Utilities (LCU).
Students can earn up to $2,600.00 by participating in the internship, being paid $13.00 per hour, up from $10.50 per hour in 2021, and working up to 200 hours, as opposed to 120 hours last summer. Also, unlike the previous year, 15-year-olds with a work permit were eligible to participate in the summer internship program. They can join juniors, seniors, and prior interns in their first year of college.
One of the 12 LCU interns, Ariana McKahan, was placed in LCU Administration to shadow LCU Director Delilah Walsh. McKahan helped during board meetings and saw how Walsh engaged with commissioners, city staff, and the public.
“I was surprised how friendly all the staff are and how much they’re willing to help,” McKahan said. “I wanted to do this internship to gain real experience for a future career. Even if local government isn’t where you end up going, at least you have more knowledge about the system.”
Other interns were placed throughout LCU – in Solid Waste, Natural Gas and Energy, Technical Support, Water, and the new Management of Information Systems (MIS) program – and got chances to ride along with workers in the field as much as possible. Interns also received a structured type of professional development that LCU values for all its employees, from full-time to temporary, and even interns.
“Since this was the second year that LCU has hosted DAC interns, we wanted to prepare a more defined program,” said Walsh. “Our staff spent time developing a curriculum that not only gives the students an understanding of the services we provide for the public but covers concepts they might have learned about in school and now they get a chance to see how those concepts are used in a professional setting.”
Interns took classes taught by LCU staff that covered things like basic accounting, which aids in setting rates for services; cybersecurity, which keeps customer data safe; and microbiology, which is integral for wastewater systems.
LCU Board Commissioner Raymond Hickman, who had a long career as a professional engineer, also wanted to join LCU staff in teaching a class on career management that asked students to question themselves and find how their interests and skills can align to build a life.
"The purpose of my presentation was to give them a focused idea on how to move forward in their career, what to do and how to do it," Hickman said. "At this stage of their lives, and in remembering my own experience, students are presented, bombarded even, with too many choices, many focused on going to college. For some, it's a good choice. For others, vocational schools, along with working, is a much better path."
LCU – Your Utility Connection. Customer Central can be reached at 575-541-2111 from 8 a.m. - 6 p.m. Monday through Friday. LCU provides clean, safe, and reliable services to Las Cruces residents and businesses. Learn more at: las-cruces.org/180/Utilities
For emergencies, call Dispatch at 526-0500.
PHOTO 1: LCU Director Delilah Walsh, DAC Intern Ariana McKahan, and LCU Board Commissioner Raymond Hickman chat after a LCU board meeting. Interns like McKahan get a chance to see City work in action, in the field, and the boardrooms.