COVID-19 creativity: Mother-daughter duo team up with companies to create virtual internships for students

COVID-19 made internships more difficult for students, especially underrepresented ones.

Race and social justice is just one of the areas we're focused on as we work to Build a Better Bay Area during the pandemic. One mother-daughter duo is teaming up with companies to create virtual internships, making a difference for dozens of students.

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"It just felt like COVID was ruining everything," says Kaylyn Goode.

That's how the sophomore at George Washington University was feeling this spring when she found out her summer internship wouldn't be happening.

"Everything I had planned just got canceled," Goode recalls. "I applied to other internships, they all got canceled. And so this was my only hope, really."

That hope? A virtual internship that gave the Bay Area native the chance to get real-world experience and connect with high-level working professionals over Zoom.

"We heard from so many amazing, like entrepreneurs, communicators, fashion designers, stem people," Good says. "Like, it was it just showed you the amount of options that we had and that no matter where you come from, or what color your skin is like, there are ways that you can make your way out here."

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It was Mary Stutts' idea.

"My goal is to give them what they might not get because of life circumstances," Stutts says.

With the racial unrest and impact of COVID-19 on internships, she wanted to create a virtual internship through The Center for Excellence in Life, or TCEL, the non-profit she started to empower underrepresented students.

"I reached out to my network to see if I was crazy to be able to do it, and I got overwhelming support from wonderful people," Stutts says.

The support wasn't just with their time, but with their money.

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"My goal was to give every graduate of the program a stipend of some sort," Stutts says. "It was so important to me, for these youth to know that it was valuable and worth it for them to invest their time."

Companies from around the country stepped up to help her reach that goal. Stutts thought she'd have about 30 students. Instead, more than 80 applied and she accepted them all.

Stutt's daughter Loren got on board, structuring the online program.

"I really got behind it," Loren Stutts says. "And I was like, 'okay, we, we can do something, we can help.'"

The students checked in every day and met with mentors of color, focusing on STEAM, Communication, Digital Entertainment and Fashion.

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"Being able to learn and see people who are successful or interested in things you know, that you're interested in, who look like you, is hugely empowering and motivating," Loren Stutts says. "It just makes you feel like you can achieve more."

Goode says she's still in touch with her mentors after giving her final presentation.

"I almost started crying but don't tell them that," Goode says. "It was. It was like overwhelming."

Goode says she feels even more supported to reach her career goal of working with the United Nations.

"It was inspiring," Goode says. "I learned so much. It was just, it was not like any other internship opportunity."

Making an impact in an impossible situation, by taking small steps to help.

Take a look at all of ABC7's Building a Better Bay Area stories and videos here.

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