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UNCA awarded $100K, nearly $1.5M in funding in NC
Sunday, 28 February 2021 21:16

From Staff Reports

RALEIGH— The Board of Directors of SECU Foundation on Jan. 27 approved the renewal of the SECU Public Fellows Internship program, which a UNC Asheville press release termed "excellent news for students seeking unique internship opportunities in local communities throughout the state."

The renewal includes a program expansion to 15 campuses in the UNC System with an allocation of $1,450,000 in funding; this will allow up to 20 in-state undergraduates per campus to be awarded a paid internship position.

Besides UNCA, universities participating and serving as program administrators for 2021 include Appalachian State, East Carolina, Elizabeth City State, Fayetteville State, NC A&T State, UNC-Chapel Hill, UNC-Charlotte, UNC-Greensboro, UNC-Pembroke, UNC-Wilmington, NC Central, NC State, Western Carolina, and Winston-Salem State.

Specifically, UNCA was awarded $100,000 to fund 20 internships in summer 2021, doubling the funding from the 2020 program, which successfully supported 10 students in their summer internships in Western North Carolina community organizations.

The program is designed to connect interested, talented undergraduate students with local leadership in order to obtain meaningful on-the-job experience with a local agency or organization, while providing a unique learning opportunity to allow students to give back to his or her community. Read more at

"The expansion of the SECU Public Fellows Internship program could not have come at a better time," UNC Asheville Career Center Director Lisa Mann was quoted as saying in the press release. 

"Through this program we were able to provide UNC Asheville students with necessary experience for their careers, funding, and connect and support local nonprofits who are filling critical needs for our community during a pandemic. Through the program, we've expanded our relationships with organizations like Manna Foodbank and United Way, while creating new relationships to benefit our students, like those with the Asheville Humane Society and Girl Scouts. This year, we are able to grow the program to include twenty sites and are thrilled to deepen our relationships in the community and provide more needed funding that makes it possible for our students to complete internships,” Mann asserted.

In WNC, internship partners for summer 2021 include Pisgah Legal, Conserving Carolina, Bounty & Soul, YMCA of WNC, Mountain BizWorks, ASAP Connections, United Way, Asheville Humane Society, Manna Food Bank, Girl Scouts, Forest Keeper, Working Wheels, Habitat for Humanity, and MAHEC. 

Students can earn $15.50 an hour to work full-time from June to August 2021, while earning three academic credit hours. UNC Asheville students interested in applying for an internship should submit their application at by March 3.

UNCA also offers on-campus housing during the summer for undergraduate and graduate students who are participating in internship programs in the Asheville area. For more information on intern housing, visit

The SECU Public Fellows Internship program began in 2015 as a pilot at three universities. It was designed to help build capacity for underserved areas and to reduce talent drain from rural North Carolina communities. Since then, university administrators have placed over 800 SECU Public Fellows interns at local agencies/organizations, which serve as host sites in 48 North Carolina counties. The internships have become a valuable educational and career enhancing opportunity for interns to develop their professional skills, obtain on-the-job experience, and give back to their local communities, while assigned to non-profit and public sector organizations.

"Internships are one of the most impactful activities students can complete during college. Nationally, the evidence is clear that internships shorten the time from graduation to finding full-time work and can increase starting salaries. Through internships students also have the opportunity to try on different careers and determine what they want to do first after graduation. Yet, without funding many students are unable to take advantage of internships. The SECU Public Fellows Internship Program evens the playing field for students who may not have the resources to do an unpaid internship, while providing needed assistance to nonprofits and community organizations that help North Carolinians. It's a win-win,” said Mann. 

“We are extremely pleased with the tremendous success of the SECU Public Fellows Internship program,” said Jo Anne Sanford, SECU Foundation Board Chair. “The positive feedback from interns, host sites, and UNC system administrators each year continues to generate increased awareness and interest in these internships. This is an amazing program and we are proud that today’s talented young adults are taking advantage of the opportunity to build connections and help stimulate growth in underserved areas of North Carolina.”

Christie Poteet, director of the Office for Community and Civic Engagement at UNC-Pembroke, stated, “The SECU Public Fellows Internship program has been instrumental in helping us provide our students with opportunities to gain valuable, hands-on experience. In rural areas of North Carolina, like Robeson and surrounding counties, community-based agencies may not have the financial resources to host interns, but greatly benefit from the skills and talents our students are able to bring to their agencies and our community.”

Poteet added, “Similarly, students at UNC-Pembroke are eager to take advantage of opportunities to learn and serve, but may not be able to do so due to the need to work in order to pay for tuition, books, and other necessities. Thanks to the SECU Foundation grant, we are able to meet the financial need of our students while providing them with a unique educational opportunity to serve and impact our community. This type of experience is truly a win for everyone.”


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