ROCK ISLAND, Ill. - Students and recent graduates from colleges across the United States are gaining real world experience through the Minority College Relations Program.

There are 15 participants in MCRP's spring 2011 internship program here at Rock Island Arsenal, Ill. The 15-week program in place at nine Army installations runs from January through May and focuses on getting students integrated into the federal work place and shows them many different ways to serve the nation, aside from military service.

"MCRP's mission is to develop collaborative programs within the Army Sustainment Command and Joint Munitions Command that will allow minority institutions to participate in Federal programs," said Carmen Ausborn, ASC Minority College Relations Program coordinator.

Ausborn said many of the interns that have participated in this program have become permanent government employees, which has enhanced the commands' future readiness.

"I've had the privilege of serving as the MCRP Coordinator for the past year and it's been a rewarding experience to be a part of such a great program," said Ausborn.

"Continuous learning has been the best part of this experience," said Amanda Morales, student at the University of Texas at El Paso studying accounting and finance. "I have learned so much about contracting and I have become interested in a future career in contracting."

Morales became involved with MCRP through an internship with Vista Sciences Corporation. She currently works in Army Contracting Command-Rock Island, reconciling contracts and entering them into paperless contract files, among other duties.

MCRP is not just a one-time opportunity, interns are eligible to apply again and come back to the program to get more hands-on experience.

Donovan Williams, a 2010 graduate from the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, did just that. "This is my second session in the program," he said. Williams was introduced to MCRP while serving as a student liaison during a three day conference that was held at his university during the 2009-2010 school year.

"The best part of this experience has been gaining more knowledge of how the government operates," Williams said.

Arthur Stith is a business administration major at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff. "Before I applied for this internship opportunity, I had never heard of the MCRP program," he said. "My career services advisor suggested that I consider applying, because it would give me some hands on experience and it was an avenue I had not considered before."

Stith works in the program integration division of human resources, which focuses on collecting and compiling statistical data from other divisions of human resources in order to create comprehensive plans for ASC.

"I have always been an advocate for diversity and inclusion in the workplace, so I jumped at the opportunity to be involved with a program that actively solicits and encourages minority students to gain hands on experience," said Stith.

Raquel Mena, who received a bachelor's degree in history from the University of Texas at El Paso, also learned about the program through her school's career center. "I was informed of the program in 2009 and I returned this spring to utilize newer skills," she said.

Mena works in the ASC History Office and spends her time researching information requests, writing articles to contribute to the office's newsletter and editing. "People tend to forget that teaching isn't the only career field you can go into with a history degree. The best part for me has been applying research and writing skills outside of a classroom," she said.

To be eligible for the program, interns must be a junior, senior or recent graduate of a four-year college or university that is historically an African-American, Hispanic, tribal or other minority institution. Students and recent graduates must be U.S. citizens and pass a background check.

To complete their internship, the participants from all nine installations will have to brief their commander, explaining the scope of their assignments and what they learned from their experience.

Other interns in the ASC MCRP program include: Ericka Amador, University of Texas at El Paso, studying Environmental Science; Sharon Dobbs, University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, studying computer science and mathematics; Marcus Payne, Alcorn State University, studying business administration; William (Devin) McKnight, A & T state university, studying computer engineering; Carla Torres, University of Texas at El Paso, studying communication studies and legal reasoning; Ravi Gupta, Florida International University, studying accounting; Bryan Gonzalez, University of Texas at El Paso, studying history and Latin American and border studies; John Graesser, University of Texas at El Paso, studying business management; Jennifer Spacek, New Mexico State University, studying engineering in information communication technology; Jeremiah Haley, Alabama A&M University, studying electrical engineering computing option and biology; Avery Wheeler, University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, studying industrial technology.