Knoxville — When the phone rings inside the admissions office at Tennessee College of Applied Technology, Fulton High School Senior Alexis Thomas picks it up on the second ring, quickly determining that the caller should be transferred to the financial aid office.

She's interning at the school through Project GRAD's new Hands on the Future summer internship program.

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"I wanted to work at Tennessee College of Applied Technology because I wanted to figure out what I wanted to do,' Thomas said. " I got to see hands-on what it was like in all different career fields."

"When they [Project GRAD] came to us with this program, we were really excited about it to help develop students and expose them to the different employment opportunities out there," TCAT Vice President Kasey Vatter said.

A few streets over, Fulton High School Senior Michael Darden is getting a taste of his dream job.

"I remember when we were buying our house, I was just watching our realtor thinking, 'that's really cool,'" Darden said.

When he saw the list of nine businesses involved with Project GRAD's competitive internship, he knew that Trotta Montgomery Real Estate was the right place for him.

"I knew this was what I wanted to do. I didn't want to go through school and that process only to find out I didn't like it, so I'm glad I did it. It was one of the highlights of the summer," Darden said, adding that he's more determined than ever to get his real-estate license when he's older.

"We're really invested, and we're in East Knoxville, so this just seemed like a great opportunity," Darden's mentor Suzy Trotta said about the new program. "We would love to do it again, but our thought was, 'how are we ever going to get another Michael?' He was just so great."

12 rising juniors and seniors qualified for the program that allowed them to work six to eight weeks at a local business they interviewed with at minimum wage or higher.

This was the first year for the program.