Internship Project in Topeka: Recruiting Placement Sites & Sponsors

Dear Topeka Community Member:

My name is Leo Espinoza and I’m the college & career advocate at Topeka High School. My role as the college and career advocate is to ensure every graduating senior has a plan post-high school: either more school, joining the military or entering the workforce.

In my conversations with students, I’ve learned many of them would love to have internships to explore career fields and learn what being in a profession entails, but for a variety of reasons, they haven’t. We want to change that. George Wong, the executive director of the Topeka Youth Project and I, are working together. We want to place at least 50 students, both juniors and seniors, with four-week internships this upcoming summer.

Yes, this summer. It’s ambitious, but we believe in our community’s ability to help us get it done.

The logistics of the internship are as follows: The internship will be 4-weeks long in the summer. There will be two sessions: June and July. Students will be interning part-time, meaning just 15-20 hours a week. Students will complete baseline and end-line surveys for us to gather data on the success of the internship. Students will only be required to intern Monday thru Thursday, leaving Fridays open. Fridays we’ll offer an opportunity for them to attend a joint half-day session (with other interns from their session) where they’ll get to share experiences, talk to panels, discuss issues they may be having, etc. (This part is still being worked out.) At the conclusion of their four weeks, they’ll receive a $250 stipend. The stipend will be disbursed upon successful completion of requirements — i.e. good attendance, submitting both surveys, attending at least one of the Friday sessions, etc. (Requirements have not yet been set in stone though, so we’re still working on this too.)

Why a $250 stipend and not more? Three reasons:

a) It’s a reasonable amount for the hours and number of weeks they’ll be at their site.

b) We want to avoid having to do payroll, taxes, etc., so paying them per hour would make this project an even more daunting task. We’re wanting to actively avoid doing that.

c) The point of this internship is NOT for them to make tons of money.

The purpose of this experience is two-fold. The first reason is for students to have exposure to a field/profession they may have interest in. By being in a working environment and working with someone in a field they’re considering pursuing, they’ll better understand what a day-to-day on the job looks like. Additionally, through the connections they make, they’ll be able to ask questions, not just during the course of their internship, but also afterward as they return to high school and consider what they’ll do after high school. In other words, we’re wanting to give kids as much exposure to fields they’re considering BEFORE they pay thousands for the schooling only to realize it’s not what they want to do. And we want to connect them to professionals in our city who want to train our next generation of leaders.

If students do need to make money (to support family, etc.), the internship is structured in such a way they could have another job should they need it.

In light of Momentum 2022, our city and county strategic plan for economic development, this is a great way to keep our young people here. We’ll show them what Topeka has to offer. There are many fields, professions, and industries that pay well, do not require extensive schooling post-high school, that are here in Topeka. Part of this project is keeping our young people in Topeka, ensuring our home-grown talent stays here.

As such, if you know any businesses or organizations who would love to have an intern, please send them our way. Either forwarding them this email or sending them to my Facebook post about this ( would work.

My email is lespinoza if they’d like to get in touch and further discuss this project.

For those wondering why this is only for Topeka High students, this is what it’ll be initially. The goal for this is to eventually have placements for students from all city and county high schools, but we want to start small, make sure our model succeeds, then scale. If we are successful, we will probably also consider asking other entities (i.e. the city) for funds in the future. That depends on making sure this round is a success, so let’s make sure it is.

If you can host interns, please fill out the following form: Placement Sites Questionnaire

One more thing: we’re also looking for financial sponsors. Given our stipend, a little donation can go really far. Since we are working with the Topeka Youth Project, a 501c3, donations can be tax-deductible.

A $5,000 donation helps us get 20 interns in place!

George and I appreciate any and all the help we get from anyone willing to help out. We would truly not be able to give our students these opportunities if it weren’t for you stepping up. Our students are already excited about all that they’ll learn this upcoming summer.

Please feel free to forward this email to anyone you know who might be able to help out.


Leo Espinoza & George Wong