Araceli Mercado Diaz knew the Avenue Scholars program offered internship opportunities when she signed up for the program as a sophomore in high school, but never pictured herself as an intern at Blue Cross Blue and Shield of Nebraska (BCBSNE).

Now, the University of Nebraska at Omaha junior has been with the company as a claims intern for two years. She’s one of 89 Avenue Scholars who have been part of the program in the past six years through the Avenue Scholars Foundation, a nonprofit organization that helps students in need, obtain a career through support services and educational opportunities.

The Avenue Scholars Foundation supports its students from their junior year of high school through postsecondary education and into their careers. Support is provided in a variety of ways, including career coaches and career opportunities, such as internship placements, like the one Mercado Diaz earned at BCBCSNE.

Career opportunities help the program’s scholars gain real-world experience. For Mercado Diaz, her experience as a claims intern helped her grow as an individual and employee.

“The internship experience has given me a strong foundation for future career opportunities,” she said. “Personally, it has increased my confidence and given me the experience to resolve problems and become successful in a professional setting.”

As a member of the claims team, Mercado Diaz has had the opportunity to cross-train within the department and is held to the same standards as the company’s full-time employees.

“This sets me up for real-world experiences and builds me up to be a well-rounded employee as well as learning what it is to be a true team player,” she said.

While Mercado Diaz and other Avenue Scholars build their professional skills interning at BCBSNE, they build up the company as well, said Monica Parr, claims manager.

“They might have a perspective that we’ve never seen,” Parr said. “We invite change to create opportunity when we continuously embrace new processes and behaviors that allow us to evolve to meet changing needs.”

Mercado Diaz’s career needs are changing the closer she gets to graduating from college. She said she hopes to continue working after graduation at BCBSNE, a company that provided her with a rewarding experience and supplied her with the tools needed to be successful in her professional development.