BROOKSVILLE — Jami White was headed down the hallway at Central High School on the way to third-period calculus when a friend stopped him.
"You need to come with me right now," White recalls the friend saying. So, clad in denim cutoffs, a camouflage flannel and cowboy boots — an ensemble inspired by Senior Week — he followed.
And it's a good thing he did.
Less than two months later, an 18-year-old fresh out of high school, White walked into the first day of a new job with Monster Transmission & Performance, a local automotive company working to connect young adults to jobs in the industry.
"A golden ticket," White calls it now.
This is the first summer the Brooksville company, a worldwide supplier of re-manufactured transmissions founded in 2003, has offered the two-month internship program. In collaboration with the Hernando County School District, which approved and organized Monster's in-school presentations, and CareerSource Pasco Hernando, an employment agency that provided the cash to support the added payroll, 11 interns ranging from age 17 to 24 were brought onboard at the start of June.
But it's not just an internship, says Jady Vargas, director of training and development at Monster, who first had the idea for the partnership. It's a real chance at a full-time job.
"Some people start working early, but some struggle," Vargas said. "Even though Monster is a transmission company, we saw a way we could work that into the community by helping youth get placed in jobs."
Although none of the interns have been guaranteed employment after the program, which ends next week, Vargas said the company's goal is to "find a way to get them all employed with Monster."
For White, a third-generation mechanic who says "university just wasn't me," that would be a dream come true.
As an ROTC student who bypassed SAT and ACT testing and scored grades lower than he would have liked, White had toyed with the idea of joining the military. But after an accident that left him with nerve damage, that option slipped away.
"A month after that, (Monster) came to my school, and I think now that it was supposed to happen that way," he said. "My goal has always been to be a build mechanic, and it seems that this is my opportunity to do that."
Information technology intern Tony Garcia, 18, called the internship "a huge jump start" that put him ahead of the game in finding a job after graduation from Nature Coast Technical High School this year.
"I wasn't sure what I was going to do or if I would be able to find a job for my skills," Garcia said. "This internship solved those problems for me."
Other intern positions range from marketing to sales, and from general mechanics to more specialized departments. Each spot pays about $9 an hour and includes worker's compensation coverage.
CareerSource youth coordinator Kelly Castro said that, along with pay, the agency provided interns with employment skills training, incentives, work clothes and more.
"We do everything we can to help students take their skills and use them to get to the next step in their career," Castro said, adding that it is "absolutely imperative" that her agency makes connections with a variety of local businesses to fit the wide array of students and skills coming out of school programs.
Monster president Achilles Thomas says that, along with valuable experience, he hopes interns gain new perspective through the unique company culture he has worked to foster. It's one that pushes for development of interpersonal skills and promotes hard work with positive reinforcement, he said.
"I always say that we are a high-performance company made of high-performance people," Thomas said. "Our company culture encourages that."
Sales intern Paul Scholz, 21, agreed, saying employees at Monster are "out to help each other." A Hudson High School graduate, he said one of the best parts of the internship is the mentoring he has received.
Thomas said charity and civic involvement have always been of highest priority to him and his family. The program, he said, is just another way for Monster to bridge a connection to the community.
"To be able to have this type of program that gets youth on their feet in the right direction ... it really brings joy to me," he said.
Contact Megan Reeves at [email protected] Follow @mareevs.