At NFI, unique program is giving high school students chance to see inner workings of global company

Students at Camden Prep High School are getting opportunity to gain real-world experience

NFI Industries, the global logistics company headquartered in Camden, has long had an internship program for college students as a way to help find its next-generation workforce.

That search now is going further back — and comes with much bigger rewards.

As a way to help the community it serves, NFI now is bringing high school students from Camden Prep High School into the company. The goal is not so much to find a future workforce at NFI — if it does, it’s a plus — but to help area students get an early understanding of what the work world can hold for them.

The internship program was the brainchild of Kevin Patterson, president of distribution for NFI, who also sits on the board of Camden Prep schools.

Patterson said he wanted to find a way for students to explore careers early on and contribute to their long-term success after high school and college.

“With our headquarters in Camden, we have a responsibility to be involved in the community that welcomes and supports us,” he said. “When I met with Camden Prep and saw the impact they have on kids in our community, I instantly wanted to get involved to be part of providing guidance and giving these kids the skills and support they need to have successful careers.”

Camden-based companies like NFI have good reason to expand opportunities for city residents. Under an ordinance adopted by the Camden city council in 2022, businesses are now required to report how many city residents they employ.

Schools such as Camden Prep are preparing students for college, and, if the students decide they want to return to the city after graduation, they would have the necessary education and skills required for employment in the numerous corporations that now call Camden home.

Camden Prep students were placed in departments they found most interesting at the beginning of the year, such as engineering or finance. Camden Prep is one of three Renaissance schools in the city and is part of the high-performing Uncommon Schools network, which also operates North Star Academy in Newark.

The managers at NFI use a rubric developed by Opportunity College, which provides professional development seminars to continuously evaluate the students and determine what areas they need help in.

The students typically observe meetings, do LinkedIn Learning Courses and assist with smaller tasks. For the end of the year, they will complete an extensive project related to what they have been working on at NFI.

Some assignments include designing a logo for one of NFI’s departments, assisting with audits, developing data reports, understanding contracts and more.

Jelia Chatman, a senior, said she was excited to experience the business world and see what she could learn to prepare for the future after school.

“Getting a firsthand experience showed me how much connections matter, and interacting and working with different people within different fields is crucial for success in the business world,” she said. “It showed me that you can’t do everything alone in the real world.”

Chatman works closely with the workforce strategy team, and since she is interested in becoming a crime scene investigator and getting involved in the justice system, she has also worked on auditing.

“I may really use this information for my future career. So, having a chance to get experience in auditing and looking at background checks gives me a sense of what it would be like in law enforcement,” she said. “I feel so fortunate to have the chance to get this experience at a young age, because many people don’t get that kind of opportunity.”

Patterson said the entire NFI family feels fortunate to work alongside Camden Prep students.

“As an employer in the community, we have a vested interest in developing the future leaders,” Patterson said. “I have developed a genuine appreciation for the leadership and passion at Camden Prep, whose administration creates unequaled opportunities for the students and their long-term careers.”

A’zure Polson, 16 and just a sophomore at Camden Prep, is a prime example of that. He has his sights set on attending college to study mechanical engineering — and is getting an early opportunity to do just that.

“It’s really just an incredible opportunity to do something like this,” he said. “I’m building a lot of skills that I will need later on. I’ve learned a lot of relationship skills and how to advocate for myself. If I’m struggling on something, I’m not afraid to ask someone for help.”

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Reach NFI Industries at: or call 877-634-3777.