At Irving ISD, female high school students are leading the charge and changing the face of technology. While women represent less than a quarter of the IT (information technology) and technology workforce nationally, female students in Irving ISD have risen to the top. In addition to the extensive training in business, marketing and technology received in the classroom, these young women benefit from the district’s close partnership with Citi. 

A partner for over seven years, Citi provides unique opportunities for Irving ISD students to get an inside look at the business and technology world, especially through the their internship program. Possibly the first internship in the world created for high school students, Citi is proud to provide programs that invest in the local Irving community.

“Companies typically don’t focus on high school. They’re always focused on driving talent from colleges. For us, we’re looking at where we can capture talent from the beginning,” says Jordan Thurston, who leads the high school intern program for Citi. “Even in high school, you have untapped minds and people who wouldn’t necessarily have the opportunities at that age to come into a Fortune 500 company and make a name for themselves.”

This summer, rising MacArthur junior Gabby Garcia is taking part in the Women in IT summer internship sponsored by Citi. The weeklong program provides hands-on experience for nearly 40 young women from across the country to learn about the workplace and business and technology career paths. 

Garcia, though one of the younger participants in the program, already has extensive experience from other IT camps and her involvement with DECA. For her, one of the most useful parts of the internship is learning from women who are leading the charge in the IT and business. 

“It’s really exciting getting to talk to older girls who are in IT and understand the struggle of going through high school, taking AP classes and being surrounded by all the science and not really knowing where you fit in yet,” says Garcia. “One told us that you have to go into [college classes] knowing you may be one of only 10 or 20 girls, but that gives you power.”

In addition to this summer internship, Citi also provides internship opportunities in partnership with Collabera, a local staffing firm, for students during the school year. This past year, several MacArthur students from the School of Business and Entrepreneurship participated in this part-time paid internship.

“We understand the importance and necessity of the internship, because we know that it is a pivotal point in development for our students,” says Kelley Watson, assistant coordinator of the MacArthur School of Business and Entrepreneurship. “We always hear back [from students] that that was the best experience they’ve ever had.”

Unlike the stereotypical internship where students may be assigned menial tasks, Citi is dedicated to giving the students real-world experience. A few of the interns had the opportunity to participate in a technical project focused on reclaiming unallocated cloud-based storage. In the end, the project made way for more than 2 million dollars in savings.

“They were a very instrumental part of that. For a lack of better words, we essentially threw them into the fire to see how they would react to the project,” says Thurston. “In any situation, we want to see how they thrive or fail, and I always tell them that it’s perfectly OK to fail, that you don’t learn unless you make mistakes.”