BCS internship program changes futures

January 21, 2014 By Rob Abruzzese Brooklyn Daily Eagle
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It might be unusual for a typical high school student to intern at a news organization, but at the Brooklyn School for Collaborative Studies, it is a regular part of their curriculum.

Maritza Medina interned at NY1, which is not unusual, but because she did it as a high school student, her application really stood out.

“When I applied to college, it always came up in interviews,” said Medina, who graduated in 2012 and is now attending Cornell on a full scholarship. “They weren’t used to seeing that kind of a job from high school students. It certainly looked better on an application than Subway, and it shows that you are trying to get out there.”

The Red Hook public school held its Internship Program Model Job Fair, designed to help the kids help each other prepare for college and the job market, on Friday morning.

“They’re handing down the torch of professionalism even though they are still students,” said Jacques Hoffmann, the director of internships at BCS. “It challenges young people, it creates a lot of cold feet and puts them in uncomfortable situations, but they come out ahead and really enjoy it.”

The program began in the fall of 2007. It is designed to get high school students internships that they normally aren’t even considered for. Juniors interview sophomores in a mock job fair, in which business professionals observed and evaluated them.

“Since you are interviewing with somebody that is your peer, you feel like they are not going to penalize you for doing something wrong,” said sophomore Amari Dumas. “Instead, they are going to guide you and help you be prepared for what you need to do for the real thing.”

Businesses that have participated in the program have found it especially rewarding. Dr. Stuart Friedman, an optometrist at the Heights Vision Center, participated in the program and now donates eyeglasses to students at the school.

Vincent Alfieri, the New York managing partner of the law firm of Bryan Cave, also took part in the program and has since established an annual scholarship of $25,000 for BCS seniors.

“Each student demonstrated a remarkable dedication to academic excellence and commitment to higher education which is a testament to the terrific program at BCS,” Alfieri said.

The success of the program has been almost undeniable. Out of 700 students at the school, 70 percent are from families living below the federal poverty level. Yet, they have managed a graduation rate of 90 percent, 100 percent of its 2013 graduating class was accepted to college, and 53 percent gained full scholarships to private colleges.

In order to graduate from the school, students need 70 hours of work experience over the course of a semester in a business, nonprofit or government agency.

Students that excel in the program are hired as part of group called the Student Employment Initiative. It’s a program that acts as an in-house employment agency, where students help other students secure summer jobs. Last year, 63 percent of the school’s juniors were able to get summer jobs through the initiative, which is more than double the national average of 29 percent.

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