Islander Interns Gain Valuable Career Experiences, Increased Wages Thanks to THECB Grant

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – While some students associate the summer months with a hiatus from work and school responsibilities, several Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi students decided to kickstart their professional goals with summer internship opportunities.

Thanks to a $250,000 Work-Based Learning Opportunity Grant from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB), Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi students were afforded a chance to gain real-world work experience along with a robust wage of $20 per hour. The THECB created this grant to help counteract the loss of opportunities for students seeking professional experience created by the COVID-19 pandemic and provided TAMU-CC students with the financial stability to focus on the learning experience at hand without having to divide their attention between multiple jobs to pay for living expenses.

Kaelum Messer, Internship Coordinator with the Career and Professional Development Center (CPDC) at TAMU-CC, explained that these internship opportunities create valuable and professionally enriching experiences for Islanders.

“Summer internships help bridge the gap between students and a lack of professional experience. They build strong community partnerships and allow our Islander students to serve as ambassadors for positive internship experiences,” Messer said. “Students who have a positive internship experience are more likely to recommend an organization to their peers. Having a structured internship program can provide companies in the Coastal Bend with a pipeline of future employees.”

University partners included in the THECB grant are the Port of Corpus Christi, Camp Aranzazu, Visit Corpus Christi, Bay Ltd., the Corpus Christi Regional Economic Development Corporation, and several other local organizations.

Brenda Reed, Chief Talent Officer with the Port of Corpus Christi Authority (PCCA), explained that the collaboration between TAMU-CC and PCCA is critical in ensuring that interns develop the skills needed to make them exceptional employees.

“Our interns do real-world, significant projects in all aspects of Port operations with local and global impact. Seeing them make the transition from interns to employees has been a source of great fulfillment, both for them and for us,” Reed said. “Our intern students have access to state-of-the-art equipment and technology during their PCCA internships, as well as to mentors and subject-matter experts who can serve as guides in their professional growth journeys. These factors serve them well in their career advancement.”

Carl Hilliard ’23, a computer science major, sought an internship that would allow him to apply the knowledge gained in the classroom and supplement it with real-world cybersecurity experience. Hilliard’s time at the Port has opened his eyes to the possibility of putting his degree to work here in the Coastal Bend.

“This internship has inspired me to explore cybersecurity opportunities here in Corpus Christi,” Hilliard said. “My time at the Port has confirmed that I have chosen the right field of study. The classroom is a great place to learn important concepts, but you can’t truly understand until you see how they are implemented in a real-world setting.”

Valeria Barbosa ’23, a business major, started her internship with PCCA in spring 2022 and was thrilled to be offered an extension to return as a lead intern this summer.

“The increase in pay for this summer’s internship was a relief and it allowed me to prioritize my studies without worrying about any financial barriers,” Barbosa said. “I realize how valuable my internship has been through my work with the Port’s Human Resources department. It has shown me what employers are seeking and allowed me to learn what career environment I want to work in. The Port treated me with respect, I felt valued, and I was given patience throughout my training.”

Senior health sciences major, Rachel Weaver ’22 found her true passion in working with children through her time as an intern with Camp Aranzazu. Camp Aranzazu provides environmental education and retreat experiences to children and adults with special needs and chronic illnesses.

Rachel Weaver '22, holds a snake at Camp Aranzazu

“Seeing the campers come and push themselves has really shown me that the littlest things can change a person’s life. I now know that I want to be a part of those changes for young children,” Weaver said. “Being able to talk to hospital staff was a great networking opportunity, and the increased pay for this internship really helped me not have to worry about money for this summer.”

Program manager for Camp Aranzazu, Carleigh Mitchell explained that the work they do at the camp would not happen without their interns.

“Our interns are incredibly valuable. Everything they do here is in support of our campers, our mission, and the growth of our organization,” Mitchell said. “Not only are they a huge part of our organization, but we value pouring time and effort into teaching them new skills, providing them with leadership opportunities, and supporting their overall growth as young professionals.”

For more information about the CPDC resources available for Islander students and alumni, visit