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Tewana Hawkins, of Zachary, Centenary student

A local response to the economic disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic has created a unique internship opportunity for a current Centenary College student and a recent alumna, a news release said.

Rising junior Tewana Hawkins, of Zachary, and 2020 graduate Soira Teferi, a native of Mesquite, Texas, are working this summer with the Shreveport Economic Recovery Task Force formed in May.

The task force, co-chaired by Desi Sprawls, director of North Louisiana Operations with Forte & Tablada, and Larry English, a Shreveport attorney, is focused on developing an infrastructure plan that can be funded through a future infrastructure stimulus package from Congress as well as public-private partnerships. The task force includes four distinct committees: digital infrastructure, transportation infrastructure, downtown infrastructure and future bond proposal.

Hawkins and Teferi were connected to the internship opportunity through Tiara Davis, Centenary’s director of career services, after members of the task force reached out to Centenary professor of economics David Hoaas. Hawkins is working with the digital infrastructure committee and Teferi with the bond proposal committee. The internship is scheduled to run through the end of July.

Hawkins has been attending committee meetings that include local and state school board members, legislators and broadband experts. One of her tasks is to take notes at all the meetings that will help her compile a comprehensive report on the need for broadband internet in Shreveport. She recently researched and composed a smaller report with an overview of broadband funding programs at the federal and state level.

Hawkins is a political science major with aspirations to attend law school, and the internship is giving her a chance to improve the writing and analytical skills that will be crucial to success in her future career, she said.

The process of applying for the internship also brought Hawkins some unexpected affirmation.

“I was motivated to be a part of it because I’ve been told, ‘If an opportunity frightens you, it’s even more reason for you to be a part of it,’” Hawkins said. “The interviewer for the internship also said that my aggressiveness is just what was needed for the task force. For the first time, me being an assured, assertive being was being embraced, and that excited me.”

Teferi’s committee has focused on how to generate broad support for a bond proposal from Shreveport’s stakeholders. She has been researching the ways in which COVID-19 has affected employment opportunities in the city.