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

Seventeen interns from across the country are currently working within ASC, ACC, and JMC at Rock Island 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 mission of the MCRP is to develop collaborative programs within each command that will allow minority institutions to participate in federal programs and thus enhance the command's Soldiers and people line of effort through these partnerships.

The MCRP is co-sponsored by the ASC, ACC, 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.

Through the MCRP, each organization strives to create a diverse workforce with experienced interns. Advantages of participation in the program include: gaining meaningful work experience that coincides with their college program, establishing working relationships with federal government professionals, and obtaining valuable insight into Army regulations and policies.

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

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

"The main reason I applied for this internship was for the opportunity to gain valuable work experience," said MCRP intern Siobhan Spraggins, a graduate of Virginia State University. "This internship has shown me firsthand the pros and cons of being a federal employee," said Spraggins.

Cory Britt, MCRP team member who serves as an Ammunition Demilitarization Specialist at JMC, has significant goals for the program.

"I interned for ASC back in 2009 through the MCRP. Ten years later after a couple of assignments within the Army Materiel Command Enterprise, I am assigned at Rock Island Arsenal and serving on the MCRP team," said Britt. Britt hopes that the program continues for many years. "The MCRP is the primary resource for diverse candidates for JMC that supplements an otherwise limited outreach strategy."

ASC, ACC, and JMC interns are students from Alabama A&M University, California State University, Virginia State University, Tuskegee University, Jackson State University, Northwestern University, and the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff. This year's interns began work on January 14. They will complete the program on April 26.

Vicki Payton, Chief of Ground Munitions at JMC and MCRP team leader, greeted the group of students upon arrival at the arsenal.

"Being the lead of the MCRP is a very rewarding opportunity. It is a privilege to be a seasoned Civilian servant and provide fresh minds a glimpse of government careers that are available to them," said Payton.

"The interns are very professional and motivated to contribute to their host organizations," Payton added. "They are fully utilizing this internship to immerse themselves into the work environment and develop their technical abilities as well as mature their soft skills. I am equally proud to witness their willingness to volunteer at various community events. I've been blessed to be a part of the program."

Rabekah Stone, currently enrolled at California State University, described her experience as an "amazing developmental opportunity."

"I was mostly excited about the benefits of the program, and the opportunity to live in a new state and environment," said Stone. "Now that I have been a part of the program, I am almost certain this is where I want to be. I never would have dreamed about working for the government, but have fallen in love with the work and the direct impact that the Army has on our country."

JaMarlon Figgs, a MCRP team member who serves in the Industrial Capabilities Facilities Investments Division believes that the MCRP is a vital tool for building the bench of the workforce. "The Army will require a diverse, well-versed work force as they continue to face complex issues," said Figgs. "The MCRP aligns with the Department of Defense's ongoing commitment to sustain an inclusive total force where men and women of all walks of life are able to achieve their full potential."

The trainees are completing the final weeks of the program, many of them have taken advantage of cross-training opportunities, participated in volunteer events, and have communicated with their designated sponsors to promote opportunities that interest each intern.