Treasurer Sabree and Chief Deputy Treasurer Kersey took the interns to lunch on their last day and presented them with certificates of completion.
When Michigan State University (MSU) started the InnovateGov internship program in 2015, there were only 12 students enrolled, some of whom had to commute daily from East Lansing to Detroit. This summer, 50 students participated and were given a chance to experience the city first-hand by living downtown.
At the InnovateGov Wrap-up Party at the Roostertail Detroit, Chairperson of Political Science Chuck Ostrom introduced the program to a crowd of students, program partners, and parents.
"We want them to take what they learned in the classroom and bring it to the community," Ostrom said.
With 23 government agencies and non-profit organizations partnering with MSU, students were placed all over the city-from Detroit Public Schools (DPS) to the Mayor's Office. This summer, the Wayne County Treasurer's Office (WCTO) received four interns.
Jocelyn Sample, a current employee of the WCTO and MSU alumni who completed the InnovateGov program, supervised the students.
"The interns caught on fast and got the job done. Not only did they work hard, they were a fun bunch of girls...always keeping a smile on their faces and being helpful whenever they were needed," Sample said.
During the first 10 weeks at the WCTO, the interns worked in five departments, including: Taxpayer Assistance, Auction, Bankruptcy, FOIA, and the Call Center. At times, they were assigned difficult tasks.
One such task was making phone calls to taxpayers who owed less than $1,000 for 2014 taxes (and priors) and were at risk of foreclosure. The four interns alerted taxpayers to come in and pay their balance before the deadline.
Olivia Vaden, who plans on working in local government one day, saw Detroit as a great place to gain experience. A valuable lesson she learned while reaching out to struggling homeowners was listening.
"Active listening is a big part of working in any of these government agencies," Vaden said. "You have to listen to people. They're tax-paying citizens. They're human beings. Keep yourself calm and just let them know the process-especially when extensions happen."
According to staff, the efforts of the interns saved properties and kept taxpayers from homelessness.
Along with their daily work, the interns had to create a deliverable project to present at the end of the program. The four decided to focus on internal improvements that could be made within the departments.
Being a Spanish-speaker, Alexandra Resendez found herself a valuable asset to the Treasurer's Office, often the only translator on site. She suggested more bi-lingual accessibility, which called for multi-language signage and the hiring of Spanish and Arabic speakers, especially during high volume seasons.
The level of professionalism the women displayed during their presentation reflected the skills gained during the internship.
"I'm not afraid to go into a professional work environment anymore," MSU intern Ty'Esha KirksAllen said. Now that the InnovateGov program is over, each intern will go back to their respective studies at MSU in the fall: Criminal Justice, Urban Planning, Political Science, and Public Policy. But before heading back to East Lansing, they celebrated the successful completion of the program at the Roostertail.
At the event, students were encouraged to mix, mingle, and learn about all the amazing things their colleagues did over the summer.