Go inside Port Arthur Economic Development Corporation’s 8-week, paid internship program

Published 12:30 am Wednesday, August 2, 2023

Recent Memorial High School graduates Kaden Martin and Diego Ceja-Vega are part of a valuable internship that is helping pave the roads for their future careers.

Martin and Ceja-Vega are part of the Port Arthur Economic Development Corporation’s Youth Employment Program. They are finishing up their eight-week internship; Martin with Robogistics and Ceja-Vega with the Port Arthur Health Department.

RaNoda Lee, PAEDC workforce development manager, said the program gives the high school graduates an opportunity to go into the workforce in somewhat of an internship. Graduates who have been through the program are sometimes retained as employees, Lee said.

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This year the PAEDC was able to raise the wages from $13 per hour to $18 to $20 per hour depending on the job and demand.

Martin at Robogistics said they build robots that can pick up and stack pallets. He has even been sent to Mississippi to repair some machinery, he said.

Martin has an interest in architecture and will attend Lamar State College Port Arthur, then switch to Lamar University.

He enjoys art and one day wants to build his own house.

“I think art is like different forms, my art is building,” Martin said. “And I like to work outside and use my hands.”

Ceja-Vega recently passed his Certified Nurse’s Assistant test and is getting lots of experience at the health department. He plans to attend either LSCPA or Lamar University, whichever one makes it easier to earn his registered nurse license, he said.

The end goal is to become an anesthesiologist.

Both teens are pleased with the opportunity the internships offer.

“I would say it’s great, they’ve taught me a lot of things. They’ve given me different views of how the health field works,” Ceja-Vega said. “They’ve given me a lot of advice on how deeper helping a patient actually works.”

Martin learned more in-depth of how components work together and how it is done behind the scenes.

And both said they would recommend the program to incoming seniors as a way to prepare for their futures.

Lee said there are six recent graduates in the program; three at Robogistics and three at the health department. Funding for the program — their salaries — comes from the PAEDC.

Lee said the program, which began in 2018, would continue in the future.

“Absolutely. With that being said just look at the pay increase. That’s how much we want to pour into our youth,” she said. “Because we really want to retain our youth more than anything, because when you have knowledgeable individuals like these two, why should we lose them to other cities when they are our future. It’s a great program.”