Community and business leaders, including JCPenney CEO Marvin Ellison, congratulated more than 100 interns at the Mayor’s Summer Internship Program Celebration Luncheon yesterday, July 25. With 104 high school students completing the eight-week program this year, the program tripled in size. The first year there were 37 interns; the second year, there were 63.

“Now that’s what we call a Plano success story,” said Sonia Azad, WFAA-TV correspondent and emcee of the event. “Congratulations to Mayor LaRosiliere for reaching that century mark this year. The credit for reaching that milestone goes to the 55 wise-minded companies, nonprofits and governmental agencies that sponsored or hosted interns this year.”

More than 360 Plano ISD juniors and seniors attended a job fair and applied for the program, with each and every one of those students earning a chance to interview with at least one company or nonprofit. Those who qualified, attended an intense intern-prep training session, sponsored by Alliance Data, as well as three enrichment days, sponsored and presented by Atmos Energy, AT&T and Capital One. It wasn’t all business though; the interns learned about giving back to the community by making and donating teddy bears to Children’s Health.

The future is bright for these interns. Photo by James Edward

Dell Services presented an engaging video documenting the interns’ journey and emphasizing that the Mayor’s Summer Internship Program can be summarized in one word: opportunity.

“We are encouraging today’s dreamers to become tomorrow’s leaders,” stated Mayor LaRosiliere, who also noted that about one-third of the 2016 class includes underserved students who often do not have the resources they need to do their best. “We made a concerted effort to reach these students, many of whom will be the first in their family to attend college. This is a game-changing experience for these promising, sharp young people.”

Interns had the opportunity to earn up to $3,000 in the program, which is very exciting since many internships are unpaid positions.

The luncheon, presented by The Medical Center of Plano and hosted by the Hilton Dallas/Plano Granite Park, was a lively event with a little healthy competition. As Azad announced each sponsor, interns loudly cheered for their team (or sponsor).

Program sponsors were AT&T, Bank of America, Dell Services, Gay, McCall, Isaacks & Roberts, Intel Security, Kroger, Liberty Mutual, mroads, Oncor, Plano ISD Education Foundation, Texas Instruments, and Trammell Crow Company.

Luncheon sponsors were NTT Data, KDC Platform, AdvoCare, Asociar, LLC, Dallas Stars Foundation, Hilti, Intel Security, JCPenney, Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Plano, and Toyota Motors North America. (The Intel Security table represented a large, especially enthusiastic group.)

Plano ISD is “walking the talk,” said Azad, “having hired five interns this summer and last summer.”

Missy Bender, president of the Plano ISD board of trustees, extended a heartfelt thank you to the mayor, Plano City Council, Plano ISD Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian Binggeli, and all of the school counselors and teachers who helped identify this year’s interns. “Through their efforts, over 35 percent of the interns in this room will be the first-generation in their families to go to college.”

Today, in an era of Plano 3.0 (as coined by the mayor), Plano ISD educates 55,000 students and is a premier district in the nation. Said Bender, “Not only do 95 percent of all our students attend college, they also capture all the regional science fair grand prizes and at the same time, we represent the highest percentage of all-state musicians in Texas.” The audience applauded.

Finally, the keynote speaker of the luncheon was JCPenney CEO Marvin Ellison, who joined JCPenney in 2014 with 30 years of retail experience.

Founded in 1902 (114 years ago), JCPenney is the nation’s largest apparel and home furnishings retailer and was the first major corporation to relocate to Plano.

Ellison spoke of his modest upbringing in Brownsvile, “a small town in segregated Tennessee.” He didn’t come from much but he came from parents who encouraged him and his six siblings to not allow their circumstances to dictate their future.

Ellison’s first job was at Target, making $4.35/hour. He presented a slideshow with a timeline of how he reached C-level status and said, “There’s nothing impressive about my journey, other than the fact that I believe that you’re either going forward or you’re going backward, and irrespective of where you come from or what obstacles you may face, the journey continues.”

Ellison’s journey recently landed him on the cover of Fortune magazine. The headline reads, “Saving Penneys.” “My dad said to me, ‘Where do you go from here?’” And I said, ‘Well, hopefully, I can be on the cover and it’s not saying, ‘Saving Penneys’ but ‘Penneys is Saved.’ That’s where I go from here.”

Ellison credited hard work and God’s grace to his success—”both play a role in who I am”—and shared these five steps with his attentive audience:

Steps to Success:

  • Operate with honesty.
  • Commit to education.
  • Respect authority.
  • Take challenging assignments.
  • Be the “best you.”

Ellison elaborated on each one and concluded, “Looking back at my career, these things helped me. Again, my parents deserve a lot of credit; and there’s nothing more important than making your parents proud. If that’s your ultimate objective in life, I guarantee you’re going to come out on top.”

Photography by James Edward

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Brit Mott

Brit is a Leadership Plano Class 25 graduate and Leadership Frisco Class 10 graduate. She received her Master’s in Journalism from the University of North Texas and her Bachelor’s in Mass Communication...