PEF is helping connect high school students with paid internships. (Photo: FirstJobs.org, MGNOnline)

Through its Step-Up Chattanooga initiative, the Public Education Foundation is recruiting businesses, nonprofits and other organizations to hire high school students for paid summer internships.

The program, geared for sophomores, juniors and seniors, aims to mold students for success in professional environments.

“The impact and success of Step-Up Chattanooga has been truly inspiring,” PEF President Dan Challener said in a prepared statement. “We very much hope that businesses across Hamilton County will once again step up and hire our students.”

Organizations that host interns build relationships with a new pool of employees, as well as fill job vacancies while demonstrating a commitment to the community, according to a news release.

Students involved in the program get the chance to explore career options while developing skills to succeed in a professional environment.

Step-Up Chattanooga leaders will provide training to help students succeed during interviews and in professional settings. Students will also get other support and feedback from Step-Up and internship supervisors.

Officials aim to place 175 students for internships this summer. That’d be an increase of 21 participants from last summer.

Anyone interested in participating can contact Jeff Rector at 423-648-4452 or [email protected], or click here for more information.

The program launched in January 2016 and is designed to address the evolving global economy.

Last summer, 153 Hamilton County students earned more than $220,000 in combined income. Ninety-three percent of participating students said they would take part again if given the opportunity, according to PEF.

The BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee Health Foundation supported the first two years of the Step-Up Chattanooga program with a $300,000 grant.

They are donating a $200,000 grant for the 2018 program.