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Dinkins Would Double T. Howard Interns

The T. Howard Foundation this year plans to more than double the number of minority and female students placed in paid internships with satellite and telecommunications companies, from 10 last year to at least 23 in 2001.

"We'd like to double it every year," executive director Cynthia Dinkins said of the program that places interns with such companies as Home Box Office and DirecTV Inc.

Dinkins expects more than 400 people will attend the annual T. Howard Foundation fundraiser in New York on April 5.

"We can safely say this will be our biggest dinner ever," Dinkins said, although she's not looking for a sell-out crowd at the Marriott Marquis. "We're not Kaitz," she added.

The T. Howard Foundation seeks support from the same programming companies that typically populate the Walter Kaitz Foundation benefits, as well as functions for NAMIC and Women in Cable & Telecommunications.

"I don't see it as a competition," Dinkins said. "It's a big job, and I don't think one entity can do it all on its own."

Instead of competing, the various groups often help each other out. NAMIC sponsored the entertainment at last year's T. Howard benefit, Dinkins said. For this year's dinner, Dinkins has invited newly named WICT president Benita Fitzgerald Mosley as her personal guest.

The T. Howard Foundation hopes to broaden the reach of companies sponsoring internships to include satellite TV equipment manufacturers, satellite radio providers and others associated with the industry.

Outreach efforts target African-Americans, Latinos, American Indians, Asians and women. To better understand their customers, businesses need to hire people that mirror the general population, Dinkins advised.

While most businesses have been challenged with creating a more diverse workplace, Dinkins said she's heard from companies that say they don't know where to look for qualified talent.

"I say, 'Don't worry about it-I will find them.'"

Through the foundation, Dinkins brings industry executives to traditionally black and minority colleges to attract potential interns. Without fail, students line up down the hall and around corners waiting to hear the foundation's pitch.

"It's because of the type of companies we represent," she said. "Who wouldn't want to work for companies like HBO, the NFL or ESPN?"

The foundation is just starting to track the number of interns who stay within the industry. Although no figures were available last week, "it looks like a good percentage," Dinkins said. She added that the foundation has established an alumni association for the interns.

"They will be our ambassadors to increase our foundation's presence and to go back and recruit," Dinkins said.