Andre Collins is proof an internship is one of the most effective ways of gaining access to employment. A May 2013 graduate of Johnson C. Smith University, he is employed as a financial analyst in Belk, Inc.’s Financial Planning and Analysis department, as well as a member of the 2013 Belk, Inc. Executive Trainee Program.
“Through the Belk experience, I have been able to create new friendships, an extended family, and lifelong mentors,” says Collins, who participated in the Belk Retail Management Endowed Scholars Program created by The Belk Foundation. The Belk Foundation, which supports K-12 public education, also works with JCSU to select business
majors in their junior year of college who have an interest in retailing and have demonstrated academic success during their first two years of college, explains Katie Belk Morris, chair of The Belk Foundation Board. These students are named JCSU Belk Scholars and they receive support toward tuition and fees. The Belk Foundation is a private, family foundation that partners with Belk, Inc. to support select education initiatives. These students are named JCSU Belk Scholars and they receive support toward tuition and fees. Students are paired with professionals at Belk, Inc. who mentor them and, in some cases, they are offered a formal internship with the company. “The Belk Foundation believes that, with the right support, every student can be successful. The foundation endowed a scholarship program at JCSU in order to help remove barriers to students’ success and to offer students some real-life work experiences before graduation,” says Morris. “Affordability is a big issue in higher education. The students who participate in this scholarship program are very capable students, but they are students who do not always have the resources to pay for a college education.”
Collins had been a Johnson C. Smith University Belk Scholar since 2011. Through the program, he garnered two internships with Belk, Inc., including having the opportunity to shadow senior executives. Because of his dedication and hard work, he was offered a full-time position with the company upon graduating in May. “The Belk program fostered my professional development and assisted me in meeting my financial obligations,” says Collins. “I learned the importance of community and involvement in the community for the greater good.” Students are invited to become candidates based on their grade point averages (Collins had a 3.9 GPA), says Yvette Russell, instructor of marketing and manager of the retail management program at JCSU. The plan for the 2013- 2014 academic year includes significant engagement between Belk, Inc. associates and the students, such as job shadowing, classroom training and field visits designed to give the students in-depth exposure to retail management. “Andre excelled in his assignments and exhibited a genuine curiosity of the business,” recalls Catherine Bracey, director of accounting at Belk, Inc., who had the responsibility of facilitating Collin’s 2012 summer internship. “He always went a bit further than the basic requirement of his assignments. He took the time to build professional relationships with all team members.” Collins affirms his experience with the Belk Foundation JCSU Scholars program challenged him and prepared him for the workplace. He encourages others to follow his lead. “The program will help you understand yourself better and help you get to where you want to be,” he says. “It ultimately does one thing very well, and that is to inspire you to be great.”