At Southwest Airlines, we consider ourselves much more than just a business; we are a neighbor in the communities we serve and live. We are proud to be involved in the Dallas Independent School District (Dallas ISD)’s cohort of collegiate academies—part of the district’s collegiate academy expansion with the Dallas County Community College District (DCCCD).
Specifically, we’re excited to be involved with North Dallas High School in our hometown. North Dallas High School is one of 10 new collegiate academies that will launch next school year. Students who attend collegiate academies can earn up to 60 hours of college credit or an associate degree–at no cost to them–while earning a high school diploma.
Our Campus Reach Team has a mission to build the talent pipeline of the future by engaging, inspiring, and developing students at all levels to pursue careers in aviation and Southwest Airlines, and these efforts are naturally in alignment with Dallas ISD’s focus on providing the career pathway and courses to prepare successful candidates for today’s workforce.
To learn more, visit www.dallasisd.org/collegiateacademies, or read on to learn more about the program’s potential impact on one student, Alberto Rodriguez (pictured below, on the right):
There are two main opportunities that come with being in the North Dallas Collegiate Academy
that I’m particularly focused on. The first reason is that the two years of college I get in the collegiate academy can prepare me for the following years of college or a university. And the other reason is that I want to graduate from college the same year my older sister does.
I hope that out of this academy I will learn to be more effective in school than what I am at the moment. The partnership with Southwest Airlines can get me recognized and can make it easier for me to get accepted into a university of my choice. The partnership could ultimately help me be someone big.
I’d like to become a person someone looks up to, a role model. Being the person my parents dream for me to be would be the best reward. I wouldn’t be where I am if it wasn’t for the sacrifices my parents have made for me. I believe that my success comes from them.
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Between July 21 and 23, Southwest Airlines hosted the first-ever Southwest Summer Camp--a summer camp for the high school-aged children of Employees. It was a fun week of career development and making new friends from all over the country, whose parents work in all areas of Southwest. Here’s a Q & A with camper De Jai Bell about her experience at Southwest Summer Camp.
How did you hear about camp? What made you want to attend?
Like most of the other campers, I heard about camp from my parents. My dad, who has been with Southwest (Dallas Maintenance) for 13 years, came home with the information and we started applying. We were always hoping for an opportunity like this to come along and I’m so thankful and excited that I was able to attend. I’ve always liked Southwest and admired the spirit that runs throughout the Company. I wanted to attend because this would be the first year this opportunity was offered, and I wanted to see if the Company was really as great as my parents portrayed it to be.
What was the best part about camp?
The best part of camp for me was the activities we did with our pods. The first day, we made dog toys as a mini-service project. On the second day, we built a bridge out of pencils. On our last day, we played the airline game. My favorite activity of the three was making the bridge—not because we won, but because we each had different ideas and were able to work together to create a durable bridge with the amount of inventory we were given. The camp as a whole was great, but the most important memory that I’ll take away will be the support of my team, the Rising Educated Dreamers (team R.E.D). I’ve never gotten so close with complete strangers.
What areas of the business did you not know much about prior to camp, but now might have an interest in?
I didn’t know how important Customer Service was at Southwest. I thought they just sat at counters and solved Customers’ issues all day. I learned that there is so much more to it. I also learned there’s a job at Southwest in which you contact Employees all day long wishing them a happy birthday or get well soon. I am interested in Internal Customer Care, because that is where Southwest gets to express its love and care for their Employees; I want to be a part of that passion.
What are your plans for college? How will what you learned at camp steer you at college?
I plan on majoring in Business when I go to college. I learned about the College Internship program at camp and I plan on coming back to intern at Southwest!
What did you take away from the experience?
What I took most from the experience was the passion of Southwest Airlines for their Customers and Employees, and how they Live the Southwest Way through their Warrior Spirit, Servant’s Heart, and Fun-LUVing Attitudes. This spirit is shown on and off the clock! I also learned about possible career fields that I may be interested in, and which job opportunities best fit me at Southwest.
What would you tell a friend about camp?
I would share that Southwest Employees, even behind the scenes, make everyone feel warm and welcome. It is like a big extended family environment. I’d tell them I walked away with not only a greater sense of appreciation of Southwest Airlines, but I made wonderful new friendships. I would let them know that the true Southwest Spirit is “hospitality starts at home” and that the LUV is real on the “field” and off.
For more photos and behind-the-scenes from Southwest Summer Camp, check out the #SouthwestCamp hashtag feed to see tweets from campers, parents, and pod leaders!
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From "Smart Camp" to the far-reaching influence of Campus Reach, Southwest is hard at work building a pipeline of qualified candidates who are invested in Southwest.
Introducing Campus Reach
We’re transitioning from NoLimits to Campus Reach to expand awareness of Southwest as an employment brand. For example, our wildly successful undergraduate internship program—now referred to as the College Internship Program—has led us to recognize the need for a more experienced Intern workforce. The MBA Internship Program will translate success achieved through “inviting [undergraduate] students into Southwest to experience the Culture and People” to participants with higher education levels.
Campus Reach even includes community outreach! We realized high school students may not fully understand the career opportunities available to them through Southwest and the airline industry, so we joined forces with several high school internships programs and have plans to eventually create our own. This year’s inaugural Southwest Summer Camp brings a similar mission to children of Southwest Employees, broadening their views of the Company to go beyond the roles their parents hold within the Southwest Family.
With growing demand to engage students at all levels, inspire them to pursue a future in aviation, and launch careers at Southwest following graduation from high school or college, our small but mighty Campus Reach Team can’t be everywhere at once. Another part of our expanded program will provide Southwest Employees a “kit” of tools they can use to speak about Southwest at their alma mater—or even to a kindergarten class!
A History of Southwest’s Internship Program
“Smart Camp” was the ancestor of our program today, and it was spread out across several Departments. Relatively few Interns participated its first semester, and the application process involved paper packets manually reviewed by Recruiters—one person ran the whole program! This initial foray was well-received, and our Recruiting Team soon implemented an online portal to improve the application process.
When the word came from Senior Leadership that it was time to “put [the Internship program] on the map”, we were more than ready.
NoLimits started up in 2002, centralized within the People Department. With a vast number of other Southwest Departments interested in participating, our program became a talent pipeline through which Interns could be converted into full-time Employees. We made internal applications for full-time positions available during internships, and Southwest enjoyed a surge of fresh-faced talent!
Sam Leyendecker, Culture and Communications Team Leader and 2008 NoLimits Intern, is living proof that the program is effective.
“The NoLimits program gave me the opportunity to work at Southwest and ultimately gain the experience needed to jump start my career. My time spent as an Intern has made me a better Employee today.”
The NoLimits program has picked up speed, growing by 250 percent over the past five years! As we engaged with potential Interns at more schools than ever before, we brought in other Teams from the People Department to share the load. This increase in both interest and manpower paved the way for our Team’s evolution to Campus Reach.
Stay tuned for more information regarding Campus Reach!
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You’re probably familiar with Southwest’s award-winning college internship program, NoLimits. We’re excited to be in the early stages of a plan to expand the program into high schools, with the intent of giving students exposure to corporations, helping them see the value in staying in school, and possibly pursuing higher education.
We’ve partnered with Education is Freedom and the Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP) to get started. Both organizations reach into Dallas communities where a higher education is more of a dream than a reality. The connection was easy—let’s help make those dreams real. Eventually, our goal is to have our own program that can reach all of the communities we serve.
Our summer high school Interns share what the program meant to them:
“Since my internship with Southwest Airlines was my first, I didn’t know exactly what to expect,” said Alexis Stephenson, who will be a senior at W.T. White High School in Dallas. “But my mom, Roz Nelson, has worked at Southwest for 18 years, so I knew enough to know it would be FUN, as well as a great learning experience. I also knew that getting the job done, having fun, and giving back to the community were parts of the famous Southwest Culture that I wanted to experience.”
“Currently, there are only four high school students in the world who can say they’ve interned at Southwest Airlines. I am endlessly lucky to say that I am one of those four,” said Jake Steele, who will be a junior at Hillcrest in Dallas this year. “From inside of a high school classroom, you can’t see how an office is split up into smaller teams that bounce off of and depend on one another. You can’t see how these teams then contribute to the goals and ideas that make up a company in a large-scale symbiosis.”
“One of my favorite parts of my internship was experiencing the Servant’s Heart value in action,” said Gaby Loredo, who will be a junior at Ursuline Academy of Dallas. “I related to that value early on, because I enjoy giving back to my community. I loved sharing this experience with my Cohearts and giving back to the community.”
Expanding the NoLimits internship program positively impacts Southwest by helping to build a pipeline of strong candidates for our college internship program. It also mirrors our Spirit of Giving from the Heart to the communities we serve, while introducing our brand to a new audience. Gaby’s mom summarized it, “This internship made her (Gaby) realize what she would like to spend her life doing.”
The future of recruitment for Southwest requires us to create awareness of the airline industry and the job opportunities at a much earlier age. First colleges, now high schools… There are truly no limits to the positive impact this program can have.
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