Local governments can invest in this strategy using State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds (SLFRF) from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).

  • This strategy can help address educational disparities. The U.S. Department of Treasury has indicated that strategies that help achieve this outcome are eligible for the use of Fiscal Recovery Funds.
  • Investments in this strategy are SLFRF-eligible as long as they are made in qualified census tracts or are designed to assist populations or communities disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.

Program overview

  • Internship program for high school students: The Urban Alliance High School Internship Program provides high school seniors with training, mentoring, and work experience with the goal of helping them successfully transition to higher education or employment after graduation. The program was found to increase students’ likelihood of graduating high school, attending college, and attending a four-year institution, with particularly pronounced effects for male students.

  • Designed for students in low-opportunity environments: Urban Alliance partners with high schools in low-income and under-resourced communities to identify students at risk of not pursuing further education or securing meaningful work. Most commonly students are identified and referred by school counselors and teachers, but students can also independently opt into the program. Students are recruited in the spring of their junior year and fall of their senior year.

  • Providing paid internships: The cornerstone of the program is a paid internship. Students are matched with internship sites based on their skills and interests and employers’ needs. Starting in late fall of their senior year, students work Monday through Thursday, from 2:00-5:00 PM each day; once they graduate, students work full-time over the following summer. Internships mainly occur in office settings and tasks may include filing, copying, answering phones, or greeting guests. Interns are officially employed and paid by Urban Alliance while working, and earn a starting hourly wage at or above their city’s minimum wage.

  • Offering skills training and mentorship: Interns receive job training and ongoing coaching from Urban Alliance staff and their job site supervisors. Job training takes place for three to six weeks before the internship begins and may include topics like workplace etiquette and culture, Microsoft Excel, or interview skills. Once the internship begins, Urban Alliance program coordinators work with a caseload of 30-35 interns and are responsible for monitoring students’ progress. Interns are also matched with a job supervisor at their work site who serves as a mentor.

  • Preparation for post-secondary education or employment: Ensuring that students are equipped for post-secondary education or employment is a key goal of the Urban Alliance internship program. Internships are designed to help participants gain important workplace skills and begin building work experience. In addition, Urban Alliance program coordinators regularly check in with students throughout their internship to discuss post-high school planning. After students complete their internship year, they have access to lifelong alumni programming and support, including individual coaching, a resource bank with job search and education materials, networking opportunities, alumni reunions, and connections to additional paid internship opportunities.

Two studies with rigorous designs provide some evidence for Urban Alliance programming as a strategy to improve post-secondary enrollment and attainment, particularly for male students.

  • A 2023 randomized controlled trial found that the Urban Alliance High School Internship Program increased the likelihood that young people had a job by 12 percent and the likelihood that they had a checking or savings account by 6 percent. Urban Alliance participants also reported greater comfortability completing job applications and performing typical workplace skills than members of the control group.

  • A 2017 randomized controlled trial found that male students who completed the Urban Alliance High School Internship Program saw a 23 percentage point increase in their probability of graduating high school and attending college and a 21 percentage point increase in attaining a two-year degree or being enrolled during their third year of college.

Note: This content is under review.

  • Build intentional student recruitment processes: Recruiting students who are a good fit and ensuring clear expectations prior to the program’s start is essential for increasing participation and retention. Collaborating with school staff (especially counselors and teachers) helps to identify students who could likely benefit from the internship opportunity, but advertising and presenting in classrooms more broadly is also valuable. Students and families should also be made aware up front of the expectations for and duration of program participation, including training, internship responsibilities, and communication and meetings with program staff.

  • Partner with large employers: Employers are central to the Urban Alliance program model because they provide internships to students. Partnerships with large employers tend to generate more internship placement opportunities, and large employers may also be better positioned to champion the program to other businesses. This may help generate a deeper network of employer partners across a given region.

  • Integrate programming into school operations: As Urban Alliance internships and programming overlap with the school day, school district partners should integrate program elements into school operations as much as possible. For example, students need to travel to job sites, so school districts should offer public transit subsidies or buses to central office locations or transit stops. By integrating the program into school operations, district partners can reduce the logistical and administrative burdens for students participating in internships, which may increase retention in the program.

  • Prioritize data collection: Clear data collection and management systems are essential for ensuring that school administrators can track student performance, progress, and participation. School districts should partner with Urban Alliance to maintain records of students who participate in the program, including their graduation rates and post-high school endeavors. These data are valuable in assessing the program’s impact on students’ outcomes, and in communicating to future students and families about the benefits of program participation.