Program Feature: Inside the NEW College Program

Genesys Works is more than a life-changing program for high school seniors. We support our students after high school, as well. Nationally, only 11% of low-income, first-generation college students graduate with a bachelor’s degree within six years.

At Genesys Works, the majority of our students come from this demographic, and our goal is to help students graduate from college and enter the economic mainstream. Since its founding in the Twin Cities, 100% of Genesys Works students have been accepted to college. 97% of these students have enrolled in college directly after high school, and 81% have graduated or are persisting in college. 

While those are impressive numbers, there's still a lot of work to do. And with the help of a generous grant from the Otto Bremer Foundation in 2012, we are now able to provide strategic college and career programming for our alumni.

A group of alumni at the annual winter social.
Helping Students in College
The Genesys Works College Program's goals are to increase alumni post-secondary persistence and graduation rates, and to ensure students' entrance into professional careers. These goals are accomplished by strategic programming and interventions at pivotal points during students’ academic years. The college program assists students with transitioning to college, acquiring financial aid, and troubleshooting the myriad obstacles students face in college.

Alumni and staff at a fall volunteer event.
This fall, we developed a partnership with Augsburg College to establish an on-campus Genesys Works presence. Alumni Coordinator Andrea Perla holds weekly office hours to support our students attending Augsburg. Because of this on campus presence, students find that they're more successful.  

Halimo Ismail, Class 5 alumna, said, “From the first day that I met Andrea, she has become my guide for college. I am very thankful Genesys Works has become a part of my college life, and I hope that there could be an Alumni Coordinator on campus throughout the rest of my college years.”

We also offer our alumni many opportunities to stay engaged with Genesys Works. Events include a winter social, community service outings, and professional development sessions.
Providing Career Resources and Opportunities
In addition to college success, the College Program also focuses on career success. The College Program provides assistance with resumes, cover letters, and interviews. 

Alumni at a recent Dell professional development event.
We also help connect our students to professional opportunities with our corporate partners and at colleges. In addition to providing life-changing experiences for our high school students, our generous corporate partners have extended internship opportunities to 20 Genesys Works college students. 

At the University of Minnesota, Dorothy O’Berry, Class 5 alumna, is working with the IT department to create an IT jobs program for any Genesys Works alumni attending the University of Minnesota. By continuing to provide opportunities such as these, we help students build their professional experience, develop their 21st century skills, and ensure their financial stability in college.
If you are interested in supporting our college students in their pursuit of a college degree and a professional career, please contact Program Manager Blenda Chiu at

Beyond the Internship: Coworker Offers Intern Unique Opportunities

While most people are terrified of public speaking, Kia would rather stand before a crowd of 50 people than introduce herself to a stranger.

Yet, when she looked out at the world beyond her high school, she saw how important it is to interact well with others, especially in a professional environment. After hearing about Genesys Works from the interns in the class ahead of her at Columbia Heights High School, she realized that the summer training and internship could be an amazing opportunity to step outside her comfort zone and gain more confidence.

She wasn’t disappointed: in addition to weekly speaking assignments during the eight-week training, Kia was also asked to walk out into the Minneapolis skyway system and introduce herself to someone new. Approaching an unknown man in a nice suit, she remembers clenching her fists to hide her shaking hands. It was a challenging moment, but the man was incredibly kind, and he offered her some on-the-spot feedback: speak with more confidence and develop a firmer handshake.

Kia and her coworker Dustin
What began in summer training didn’t end there. Arriving at Target, Kia found herself supported by her coworker, Dustin Hassemer, who enthusiastically took on the task of mentoring her. In addition to answering her questions and monitoring her performance on the job, he worked with Genesys Works Program Coordinator Lauren Nakamura to design activities that would help her get the most out of her year at Target.

Together, Kia and Dustin visited the campuses of Saint Thomas and Saint Kate’s. He arranged for her to take the Clifton StrengthsFinder. And periodically, he accompanies her down to the Target lobby to repeat the exercise from the summer: she must introduce herself to someone new and learn more about them.

Kia hasn’t entirely overcome her fear of meeting new people (“I would need to do it 1,000 more times to be comfortable,” she says), but her increased confidence is easy to spot, and it’s a change Dustin is proud to witness, because it allows her to succeed in a work culture where verbal communication is expected and valued.

Dustin continues to push her toward new challenges and compares his approach to his father’s strategy when he was first learning to drive. “Growing up in a small town in Wisconsin… my father brought me over to the Twin Cities and taught me how to drive in rush hour traffic. He told me if I could drive in rush hour traffic here, I could drive anywhere. “

From Dustin's perspective, Kia’s year-long internship offers a similar opportunity. Kia has to stretch beyond her comfort zone, but she is picking up valuable skills that will continue to serve her in college and her career. “If Kia can navigate and be successful at Target,” he says, “she can be successful just about anywhere life takes her.”

Corporate Mentors Provide Extra Level of Support

When interns at Medtronic and Target began their internships this fall, they did not realize they would have another level of support at work: a mentor. The Medtronic Young Professionals Network and Target both offered Genesys Works interns the opportunity to have a mentor throughout their internship experience. The mentors have helped students transition into corporate culture, navigate their duties at work, plan for their future careers, and prepare to attend college this fall.

Mentoring is a priority at both Medtronic and Target, where full-time employees have the opportunity to participate in company-organized mentoring programs. After experiencing the benefits of a mentor partnership at Medtronic, Jesse Pischler, a Medtronic Engineer, teamed up with Andy Hoff, a Medtronic Security Analyst, to lead the mentoring program this year. Andy notes that “giving back is built into the Medtronic mission. It’s encouraged, and we’re allocated time to work on projects like this.”

This particular opportunity to give back to the community stood out to Andy, who says, “we’re making a difference in people’s lives. We’re changing the course of lives for some of these students so they can experience some of the same success as Jesse and me.”

Intern Rachel (L) meets with her Medtronic mentor Emily Fogelberg.
Both Jesse and Andy recruited early-career professionals to mentor the 20 Genesys Works interns placed at Medtronic. Each mentor pair meets biweekly, discussing questions or situations that the intern has encountered at his or her internship. 

Like Medtronic, Target Corporation also has a strong mentorship component built into its culture, and Genesys Works interns have been fortunate to be a part of the mentorship program this year. At Target, each Genesys Works intern is matched with both a peer mentor and a senior mentor, and meet biweekly with both. 

Peer mentors are alumni of the Target Leadership Program and are early-career professionals. With their interns, the mentors share their own experiences about transitioning to a professional workplace, provide networking opportunities, and share candid feedback and advice.

Target intern, Beisite Wang, considers his peer mentor to be, “someone I can relate to,” and a person who gives him advice on his academics and college plans. Because of his mentor’s encouragement, Beisite decided to challenge himself to apply to Northwestern University and the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, both schools that he received acceptance letters from this winter.  

A student and mentor have an adventure in downtown Minneapolis.
Target senior mentors are paired with students to expose them to different tracks within IT, share networking opportunities, and impart advice on workplace situations. When asked about his senior mentor, Beisite says, “in addition to work, he also provides me a lot of advice for my academics and future prospects. He’s a person I look up to and a person who I'm excited to talk to.”

To anyone interested in initiating a mentorship program, Andy knows that the investment is worth it: “I feel like I’m helping build on what they’re already accomplishing themselves. I have the opportunity to get them to start thinking of what their passion is.”

Want to get a mentorship program started at your company? Contact Program Manager Joel Crandal at

Columbia Heights Experiencing Genesys Works Culture Change

Genesys Works prides itself on being a bridge between the worlds of business, education, and philanthropy. Partnerships with each of these groups are essential in helping us fulfill our mission of helping economically disadvantaged students join the economic mainstream. During the winter, the focus of our organization turns to our partnerships with schools. Genesys Works staff members have been braving the cold to be at high schools throughout the Twin Cities, developing relationships, and recruiting students to participate during the upcoming summer and school year.

What are the benefits of Genesys Works for our partner schools? 
Dan Wrobleski, Principal of Columbia Heights High School, has seen a big change at his school. Columbia Heights started its partnership with Genesys Works in 2010 with only two students. Because of the hard work of the school staff and young professionals, 24 students started internships at Genesys Works this year - that's 12% of the school's senior class!

Columbia Heights has a core group of Genesys Works students wearing their corporate badges and modeling professionalism in their high school every day. Underclassmen look up the Genesys Works interns, who stand out because they dress professionally, and aspire to join the program themselves.

"We appreciate the opportunity to partner with Genesys Works. Our school is experiencing the Genesys Works culture change," said Dan at the Breaking Through Ceremony.

This year's goals
Through champions of the program such as Dan and the Columbia Heights High School work-based learning teacher Scott Roehm, Genesys Works is able to reach students who are a good fit for the program.

We are currently recruiting a class of 280 students to begin summer training in June. Applicants must be current high school juniors, on track for graduation, and have the motivation and dedication to break through barriers in their lives to college and have a successful professional career.

If you know potential Genesys Works Young Professional, encourage them to visit our website to apply today. The deadline is March 19.

Watch Dan Wrobleski accept the 2013 ACHIEVER Award for outstanding school partner.