This is a guest post from Mark Crosby, a Journeyman Lineman at the DTE Pontiac Service Center.

I recently finished my third summer as a volunteer mentor for DTE’s Summer Youth Internship Program. As in previous years, I witnessed first-hand the incredible difference an internship can make in steering the course of a young person’s life.

This year I mentored two exceptional students, Oronde CaZembe and Brendan Mathews, who showed a strong interest in Distribution Operations and skilled trades

On their first day, Oronde and Brendan reported to the Pontiac warehouse to meet the general supervisor, John Wagner, as well as all the lineman and other staff members at the office. They were given hard hats, safety glasses and other personal protection equipment to get them off to a safe start.

Over the next several weeks we visited crews and observed our guys working hard in all types of summer weather conditions – high heat, humidity, rain, wind. They saw that regardless of what’s happening in nature, there are jobs that need to be done. At the same time, I could see that their interest was piqued during certain tasks the lineman completed. I wanted to encourage their interests and find out just what sparked a fire for them.

We started exploring their interests and career expectations. I wanted to make sure that they knew how many job opportunities there are at DTE, so I introduced them to our many field specialties, including tree trimming, underground splicing, substation, stores and mechanics.

The more they saw of our linemen’s day-to-day activities, the more questions they asked about becoming an apprentice here at DTE. Because I’ve spent the last two decades as a lineman, I know how demanding this job is–especially in the beginning. That’s because one of the first tasks required to become an apprentice is pole climbing.

As their internship continued, I worked with them on their climbing skills, in addition to our day-to-day tasks. I helped them develop their technique under direct supervision, and in a safe manner. I could see they were working hard and that they were pushing each other to become better.

Brendan Mathews and Oronde CaZembe reach the top of the pole.

As the summer came to a close, Brendan told me he was planning to attend Oakland University and because of his internship experience, might change his curriculum toward electrical engineering.  Oronde, meanwhile, was thoroughly enjoying the experience of visiting crews, but he was especially excited about climbing poles. It seemed to come naturally to him.

After weeks of training, both Oronde and Brendan reached the top of a 45-foot pole. They were able to maneuver around with confidence and showed good technique, considering they just began their training a few weeks prior. I cannot even describe how proud I am of both of them for all of their hard work and effort up to this point, and how proud I am to be a part of this program.

On the day of the final presentations, Oronde said of his experience, “I’m blessed to have a mentor in the field. I learned valuable skills like pole climbing and tree trimming. I also got my commercial driver’s license. This summer I learned that hard work pays off.”

A few weeks back, someone asked me how our internships benefit DTE; It’s an easy question to answer.

As mentors, we’ve made a difference in the lives of the youth. And my experience, I’m sure, is just one of many. Brendan and Oronde are now prepared for the overhead apprentice Linemen bid when it becomes available. If they apply, they’ll be among the small percentage that can successfully complete the pole climbing phase – and that’s a direct result of their internship.

After his internship, Brendan said, “My mentor told me that a lot of people think pole climbing is too hard. But he got it in our heads that we could do it.”

After weeks of training they know what the job entails, and they know there are many other great opportunities at DTE. It’s been a pleasure working with these bright young students, and in a pleasantly surprising way, they’ve also mentored me. I look forward to seeing the fruit that has been planted through such hard work and effort.