Community-Focused Internship Program Provides a Summer Like No Other

Members of the Hook 'em Here Harlingen's first cohort.

An immersive new internship program will allow the College of Education (COE) to extend its reach, giving many students a chance to give back to their communities in the process.

Generously supported with funds from the Michael and Alice Kuhn Foundation, the Hook ’Em Here: Harlingen internship is a new opportunity for College of Education undergraduate students to take part in meaningful, community-centered work during their summer break. This five-week experiential program, designed to provide real-world, K-12 classroom experience through a collaboration with Harlingen Consolidated Independent School District (HCISD)’s ACE program, is the first of what COE hopes will be many regional community partnerships that engage the college’s students. Hook ‘Em Here: Harlingen includes Friday service opportunities through United Way of Northern Cameron County partners who serve HCISD youth: the Boys and Girl’s Club of Harlingen, Cameron County Children’s Advocacy Center, Family Crisis Center of the Rio Grande Valley and Loaves & Fishes.

Hook 'em Harlingen Leadership

The 15 interns selected for the Hook ’Em Here: Harlingen inaugural cohort were celebrated on February 8 during the program’s launch event at UT Austin. Joined by HCISD superintendent JA Gonzalez and other district leaders, the college’s dean, Charles R. Martinez, Jr., and many others who had a hand in designing the pilot, the newly minted interns – many of whom will be future teachers – were honored as they shared their unique stories and motivations for applying.

“This really is an amazing moment,” said Martinez. “Our DNA as a college is all about serving our community, and this program really represents who we are. You truly are trailblazers who will help shape the future of Hook ‘Em Here, not only in Harlingen but potentially in cohorts throughout Texas.”

Veronica Kortan, the deputy superintendent of HCISD, emphasized the importance of the program in her welcome remarks, stating that education is “the profession that creates all others.”

Cohort members write messages.

“This is a historic day, and there are very few opportunities like this,” Kortan said. “So, think about what you’re doing today, think about the special group you’re a part of because forever and ever this will be our inaugural cohort.”

Hook ‘Em Here places students in middle school and elementary school classrooms to help HCISD teachers provide high-quality math and reading instruction, furthering the college’s mission to be of service to Texas. Ten of the 15 students selected are from the RGV, and students such as EC-6 Generalist major Alexa Cavazos jumped at the opportunity to give back to her community.

“I’m actually from the Valley,” Cavazos said. “I wanted to apply so I could give back to my own community and help the Latino community. I wanted to establish new connections within my culture, along with other UT students.”

Hook 'em Harlingen interns

EC-6 Bilingual Education major Marcy Pena said she opted to take on the Harlingen internship over an opportunity to study abroad. “It was between this and studying in London,” Pena said. “But I’m from the Valley, and I want to go back once I graduate, so it just felt like a great test run. I’ve always known I wanted to be a teacher, but I’ve never been front and center in a classroom, so when I heard I would be in Harlingen, which is about 40 minutes from my home, it was the perfect opportunity to not only try teaching but teaching at home.”

Harlingen CISD superintendent JA Gonzalez gave the closing remarks, highlighting the goals of the district and this program. “Our goal is to figure out what kind of smart each kid is, make sure they read and write at very high levels and have the ability to articulate their skills. And that’s what you’re going to be a part of; we’re raising the emotional quotient of 17,000 students and 3,000 faculty at the same time, with an extreme focus on self-awareness and taking deep dives on their potential.”

The application for Hook ‘Em Here: Harlingen opens in the fall and interns are accepted on an annual basis.