Jordan Dotson has reviewed legal cases at Best Buy, won an in-house competition with her “octopus-with-a-briefcase” logo for the recently merged “legal and risk group” and earned appreciation in the department for her poise and “emotional intelligence,” according to her supervisor.

She also was competitive in last summer’s weekly department trivia competition.

Not bad for a 17-year-old senior at Minneapolis South High School.

“My first summer at Best Buy, I did a lot of filing in the real estate [section of the] law department,” Dotson said. “I like organization.

“I also got to read some of the cases and learned about real estate law.”

The 3.9-GPA student who rises early every morning to take two city buses to South High School in Minneapolis heads home late after a day of classes, usually topped by participation in debate, orchestra or theater, where she specializes in costume design and sewing.

Dotson, who got her first internship the summer after eighth grade, is a recent star of Minneapolis Step Up.

That’s the tremendous internship program that has created 28,000 summer jobs for mostly Minneapolis students, between the ages of 14 and 21, with Twin Cities employers in 15 industries. It’s a partnership among the city; AchieveMpls, the nonprofit support organization of Minneapolis Public Schools; CareerForce Minneapolis and Project for Pride in Living.

Dotson spent the summer before her freshman year working at Target and the next summer working in costume design at Pillsbury House Theatre. The last two summers have been at Best Buy.

“Step Up has been one of the best experiences of my life,” Dotson told hundreds of program participants, employers and supporters at an AchieveMpls event this fall. “I’ve gone from filing papers to finalizing work for paralegals and helping attorneys who are doing pro bono [work] in north Minneapolis.

“Step Up also has helped me define my postsecondary plans. After I graduate next spring, I plan to go to college to study English and economics, in preparation for a career in law.

“I’ve also met so many great mentors … at Best Buy. It always surprises me that they care enough to keep in touch and help me learn about other experiences I can have inside and outside of the company.”

One of Dotson’s champions is Mary Thomas, an 11-year Best Buy veteran and the lead employment lawyer at the company.

“Jordan is interested in going to law school,” Thomas said. “We’ve talked a lot. She’s done filing and other work. I also would take her to meetings. And she would shadow people and network with people here to learn about the law. The point is to develop skills and learn what it’s like to be a lawyer and work at Best Buy.

“Lawyers have a great opportunity to shape the law. And as we have more women and people of color in law, we can make it more empathetic.”

Step Up interns work at places like Bremer Bank, the Briggs Taft law firm, Cookie Cart, U.S. Bank, Thrivent Financial and 195 other employers, large and small, that expose 1,400 young people annually to the opportunities that await them after high school and college.

I believe the consistent growth of the U.S. economy over the past 50 years has been accelerated and enriched by the growth of women and minorities throughout the labor force. It’s part of our secret sauce.

Dotson, who is black, is getting a lot of recommendation letters from admiring fans at Best Buy and elsewhere. She is applying to the University of Chicago, Yale and New York University, Iowa State University and elsewhere.

“My parents always drilled into me that I was going to college,” said Dotson, the daughter of North Side homeowners who work in corrections and counseling.

“I’ve thought about opening my own legal shop, after law school. I think corporate law is where I would like to start,” Dotson added. “That’s the foundation I have so far after two Step Up internships at Best Buy.

“And my relationship with Mary has been important,” she said. “We have coffee and we went to the theater together. And she’s helping me with a college recommendation letter.”

Dotson is a positive person who likes to plan and “mitigate risk” when it comes to her future. She is a creative who loves music, design and theater. She also knows her hard work is likely to help earn her a scholarship at a great college.

And she’s grateful for her well-earned good fortune.

“I think that ‘paying it forward’ is really important,” Dotson said. “I want to do the work now and in the future … whatever I become. To make my own way. I also want to create a path for young women, for people of color who we need as employees and small business owners.”

And I’m grateful for a heartening visit last week with Jordan Dotson and others at the career center at Minneapolis South.