Youth is SERVED

Private group builds INROADS to corporate world

The president of Eastern Bank calls his lieutenants to arms, preparing to start the scheduled meeting of the bank’s credit committee. The chief executive officer and other executives stream in and join him, ringing a massive conference table to decide which companies will get a loan this week.

One seat at the mammoth slab is occupied by 21-year-old Jonathan Sanchez, the bank’s summer intern.

He is very, very concerned about his hands.

“I’m the youngest person by far sitting here with all these highly powerful people,” says Sanchez, a Bentley College finance major, as he recalls the scene from last summer, the first time he actually took a seat alongside members of Eastern’s credit committee. “I’m like, ‘Oh, what am I gonna do? Where are my hands gonna be placed on the table?’”

His placement must have been OK, because they invited him back. And after a couple of meetings, Sanchez finally began to relax. Top executives even started to ask for his opinion on some reports.

“I felt like I was part of the team,” he says. “I didn’t feel intimidated anymore.”

Bentley College students and INROADS participants Stacey-Ann Dell and Jonathan Sanchez.
Bentley College students and INROADS participants Stacey-Ann Dell and Jonathan Sanchez. Photos: Daniela Caride

Sanchez experienced how it feels to be a bank executive thanks to INROADS, a privately funded national organization that helps corporations identify and train minority college and high school students for future jobs.

“We help local businesses … with their long-term need for high-potential diverse talent,” says Marcos Morales, regional director of INROADS’ New England office. “We go out, we recruit, we find, we present [students] to the companies, the companies make the selection and then we work together with the company” to train them.


Since the organization’s founding in 1970, talented black, Latino and Native American students have joined INROADS in search of a viable path to land an internship in the business world.

“It’s a huge advantage to pursue INROADS,” says Sanchez.

He should know. During his freshman year at Bentley, Sanchez tried to get an internship on his own.

“It was really tough,” he says. “I didn’t even get a call back for an interview.”

One year later, he applied for internships at the exact same companies — this time, though, he applied through INROADS. Next thing you know, he’s sitting at the big table.

To increase the chances of finding a good match for both prospective interns and potential employers, INROADS trains students before scheduling interviews for them with corporate clients. And the training is intense.

“It really is no joke,” says Stacey-Ann Dell, a 20-year-old INROADS participant majoring in corporate finance and accounting, also at Bentley. “The companies that hire us have a certain level of expectation — [that we’ll know] how to dress professionally, how to act professionally … No matter what you’re doing, you’re always being watched.”

It goes beyond clothing and civility — students are expected to commit to the internship, and the company that offered it to them, well after the summer ends.

“The intention of INROADS is that you start with one company and build a relationship with that company up until you graduate,” says Dell.

Like Sanchez, Dell acknowledges that being an “inroader” isn’t always easy, but says she believes it presents a good opportunity for minority students seeking professional experience to beef up their résumés before graduation.

She learned about INROADS in 2006 through friends on campus who were participating in the program. She submitted her application online at www.inroads.org, and soon received a call from Terry Carter, a client manager for the New England branch.

After a brief conversation, Carter invited Dell to his office for an interview. She had been selected for the next step: a brief training at INROADS on how to dress and behave during a company interview.

“We are looking for a well-rounded young person, someone who is eager to work and eager to learn,” says regional director Morales.

Dell fit the bill. After two interviews, she received an offer from the Boston offices of KPMG, a global network of professional audit, tax and financial advisory services firms, for a paid internship. She took it, and worked there the last two summers.

“It’s a tough screening,” Morales admits. “Not everyone who applies gets into INROADS. Not everyone who passes the INROADS screening gets an internship.”


Katrina Moore, client manager at INROADS New England, and Marcos Morales, regional director at INROADS New England.
And because of the corporate nature of INROADS’ client list, not every student is a good candidate. Students must be at least two years away from graduation to be eligible, says Morales, and must be pursuing a major in business, accounting, actuarial science, engineering, computer and information sciences, sales, marketing, allied health, health care management, or retail store management.

“If you are interested in being a doctor, a lawyer, a teacher, a social worker, we are not the best vehicle for [you] … because we focus our attention on corporate opportunities,” he adds.

The program also focuses on quality students, recruiting only minority candidates with a minimum grade point average (GPA) of 2.8 and high school seniors with a GPA of 3.0 or higher.

“But the reality is that the higher the GPA, the more competitive you’re going to be,” says Morales. “There’s always a lot of competition. [But] in the end, the ultimate competitor is yourself.”

The competition was fierce again this year. Though final numbers were not yet available in time for this story — the recruiting season ended March 31 — Morales said that by season’s end he expected to receive between 400 and 500 applications at the Boston office, which now trains 192 interns from Greater Boston, New Hampshire and Rhode Island.

Between Boston and the two other offices in Morales’ jurisdiction — one each in Hartford and Stamford, Conn. — INROADS New England is currently training over 450 interns. All told, INROADS supervises 4,300 interns in the United States, Canada and Mexico, a number that might grow to at least 5,000 next year, according to Morales.

The supply is understandable when you consider the prize they covet: two-to-four-year summer internships, complete with nearly 50 hours of training every summer focusing on issues like communication skills, business sophistication and ethics. More importantly, the corporations that commit to provide summer internships throughout the students’ college career also prepare a career plan for each of them and pledge to consider them for full-time employment upon graduation.

Morales says when that happens — when the company hires the intern immediately upon graduation — he considers INROADS a success. He’s been feeling pretty good of late; over the past two years, 85 percent of students graduating from INROADS accepted full-time job offers from corporate clients.

Dell, the 20-year-old burgeoning accountant, still has one more summer internship to go at KPMG. After she graduates, she intends to pursue a master’s degree in accounting — but when she’s done, she hopes the company will have a position for her.

“The internship is a dating process,” she says. “It’s where each party decides whether or not they want to go into this long-standing relationship.”

For her part, Dell believes she and KPMG could live happily ever after.

“I absolutely loved it,” she says. “It was a lot of work, but that’s what we ask for.”