Southwest Youth Services and United Healthcare entered into a partnership in May 2015 to create the “Native American Youth Internship Program”. The program’s intention was to inform Native American communities across New Mexico about healthcare benefits offered to them through the New Mexico Centennial Care (Medicaid) Program.

Southwest Youth Services was able to hire three new staff: Neil Melchor, Cailey Frase, and Ashley Avila. They worked together as a team to create and build this “first ever” internship program focused on healthcare. The program started out with a goal of recruiting 100 Native high school juniors and seniors from across New Mexico to help educate Native American communities with healthcare information that was provided to them by the Southwest Youth Services and United Healthcare staff. As the program continued, a few students did leave the program for various reasons such as a lack of interest, school commitments, sports, and other extra-curricular activities, which allowed recruitment of other potential youth. At the end of the internship program, a total of 63 students received completion certificates for their work.

This was a paid internship program, as students did outreach work in their Native communities. Based on their work, students received a monthly stipend in various amounts for six months. In addition, students were also eligible to receive an education award of up to $5,000, based on the completed work over the six-month duration of the program. Although these students did not meet the requirements to receive the $5,000 education award, two students were each awarded an education award of $2,000 at the completion of the program.