Locally-focused SECU Public Fellows Internship Program Renews for Fifth Year at UNC Asheville

Ona Elkin (right), 2023 SECU Public Fellows intern, meeting Governor Roy Cooper (middle), during her internship with Rep. Eric Ager (left).Ona Elkin (right), 2023 SECU Public Fellows intern, meeting Governor Roy Cooper (middle), during her internship with Rep. Eric Ager (left).
February 2, 2024

The University of North Carolina Asheville and the State Employee Credit Union (SECU) Foundation are partnering once again in summer of 2024.

The SECU Public Fellows Internship Program, now in its fifth year with UNC Asheville, connects 20 interns with local agencies or non-profit organizations that serve rural North Carolinians. UNC Asheville students will gain meaningful on-the-job experience in a unique learning environment while giving back to their community.

The $110,000 awarded by the SECU Foundation provides all of the necessary funding to run the program. 

“This includes, but is not limited to, students’ hourly wages, professional development for students and supervisors, and opportunities to come together and learn more about the program and reflect on student experiences,” said Cate Marshall, associate director of student employment development at UNC Asheville.

Some of this year’s sites include Appalachian Wildlife Refuge, Asheville Art Museum, Mountain BizWorks, Pisgah Legal, RiverLink, Literacy Together, Manna Foodbank and several others.

All internship sites must be a non-profit or government agency with a commitment to the populations of rural North Carolina. SECU seeks to reduce the drain of talented graduates from the state by creating connections between them and local employers. 

Students accepted into the program earn $16.50 an hour to work full-time during the summer. They also earn three academic credit hours by taking a course specifically designed to ensure they get the most out of their internship experience.

Senior mass communication major Jillian Bailey, an intern in the 2023 cohort, was partnered with Muddy Sneakers, an environmental education non-profit in Brevard. She said the program gave her the chance she’d desired to give back to her community.

“I have been in a place in my life of wanting to foster my connection with my community and the natural wonders of Western North Carolina,” Bailey said. “My grandmother used to live in Maggie Valley and always worked to educate and serve her community. I want to carry on that legacy. I am incredibly thankful to the SECU Public Fellows program for enabling me to serve my community and fill my soul.”

Ona Elkins, a senior political science major and 2023 intern, worked with Rep. Eric Ager in NC District 114. She said the experience put her on the path to her dream career.

“This internship was crucial to my career development and future in politics. I gained so many connections in Raleigh, learned a bunch of new skills, and may have opened the door to future opportunities in the field,” Elkins said. “I hope to continue working with Rep. Ager in the fall with campaigning and potentially work as a legislative assistant after graduation.” 

Interested UNC Asheville students can apply here by February 11. 

To learn more about the SECU Public Fellows Internship, visit their web page here.