Internship Program Gives Jobless a Fresh Start

By Nolan Feeney

Chanta Helton was like a mother to her class of the Excellence through Community Engagement and Learning (EXCEL) program (formerly known as Community Outreach Internship Program).

"The first week we were presented with everybody's number, and if I didn't see somebody in class, I called them," Helton said. "I wanted everybody to succeed."

Since 1998, EXCEL has provided local residents with a path to long-term employment in administrative support. Interns participate in a 10-week skills training through Jewish Vocational Services before entering paid, five-month internships across UCSF. Helton, who had had never worked in an office before, said EXCEL was "a new beginning."

After completing her internship in the Department of Neurology, Helton stayed on as a temporary worker before transitioning to full-time work in June. Now, she's working toward becoming a radiologist — and keeping in touch with EXCEL alumni, many of whom still work at UCSF.

"This was a chance of the lifetime, to see what I wanted to do and pursue my dreams," Helton said.

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