ROCK ISLAND ARSENAL, III. -- The Minority College Relations Program is a 15-week experience for undergraduate students, recent college graduates, and graduate students to train within the Army Sustainment Command and the Joint Munitions Command.

The MCRP is co-sponsored by the ASC and JMC Equal Opportunity Offices. The program grants students and graduates from eligible universities an opportunity to gain work experience to further their career success.

Sixteen interns from across the country are currently working within ASC and JMC at Rock Island Arsenal and at Pine Bluff Arsenal. The program exposes minority students from Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Hispanic-Serving Institutions, and Tribal Colleges to employment opportunities within the Department of Defense.

"The interns bring a wealth of educational knowledge which allows for the development of new, creative, and innovative strategies to meet needs of our various commands," said Linda Dothard, Ammunition Systems Management Analyst, JMC, and MCRP Lead.

The trainees have a variety of reasons for applying to the program.

"I entered into the Air Force in 1998 to gain structure in my life," said MCRP intern Lynette Cullins from New Mexico State University. "I applied to the program to gain a better understanding of the Army federal sector, as well as have the opportunity to test drive a career," said Cullins.

Due to a lack of funding, this is the first group of interns since 2012.

MCRP lead, Rickey Peer, Ammunition Peculiar Equipment and Demilitarization Operations Division Chief at JMC, has significant goals for the program.

"I have high hopes for the program. MCRP will need predictable and consistent funding levels to assist JMC in achieving the strategic human capital plan in diversity, outreach, and recruitment goals," said Peer.

"The program has offered internships for the past twenty years, during which many of the interns have become federal civilian employees. It is my goal to continue the JMC MCRP internship legacy," he added.

This year's interns began work on January 16. The current program will be completed on April 28. MCRP is supported by leadership at ASC and JMC. Brig. Gen. Heidi J. Hoyle, commanding general of JMC, met with the group during their first week.

Hoyle stated how thrilled she was that the government offered internships. Growing up, she only saw internships in legal films.

"I had no idea that the government offered internships," said Hoyle. "I think that having this opportunity to see an important aspect of America and of our nation is pretty darn cool! So, I am excited for this program."

Stephanie Glenn, recent graduate of Virginia State University described this opportunity as a "blessing."

"Although I recently graduated, I felt defeated because no one would hire me. I tried to get a desk job doing office work, but they kept saying that the job had nothing to do with my major," said Glenn.

"One day, I decided to go and check my school email account. That is when I saw this opportunity. I had lost all hope until I received my acceptance letter. I was so happy," said Glenn.

Offering words of wisdom, Hoyle strongly encouraged MCRP interns to talk with their sponsors about the career topics that interest them. ASC and JMC leadership supports cross-training opportunities for the interns to see what else ASC and JMC can offer them, as well as taking full advantage of the job experiences that they want to be personally exposed to while training at Rock Island Arsenal and Pine Bluff Arsenal.

The trainees are now into their fourth week of the program.

Francisco Velasquez, a recent graduate of California State University, Fresno, echoed Hoyle's remarks. He believes that MCRP sponsors have been insightful and supporting.

"People who motivate others and have a positive attitude inspire me," said Velasquez. "I have met a good share of individuals throughout my career and organization affiliations. I feel that there is much to learn in the Resource Management team, and I am excited to continue to learn from them," he added.

Through the MCRP, JMC, and ASC are striving to create a diverse workforce with experienced interns.

ASC and JSC interns are from: Alabama A&M University; California State University, Fresno; Florida Atlantic University; Florida International University; Jackson State University; New Mexico State University; University of Illinois at Chicago; University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff; and, University of New Mexico.