Brooklyn Collaborative Studies students thank mentors, serve as mentees to peers

January 31, 2014 Heather Chin
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The applause, whoops and hollers were immediate as the 43 juniors walked into Brooklyn Collaborative Studies’ (BCS) auditorium at 610 Henry Street in Red Hook/Carroll Gardens. The students were the honorees at the January 17 ceremony celebrating their successful completion of semester-long internships at 23 businesses, government and non-profit organizations throughout Brooklyn and Manhattan.

Completion of the internship program, begun in 2007, is a requirement for graduation and has seen 545 students participate, being mentored by over 95 professionals in law, medical research, education, animal care, law enforcement, photography, art, journalism, public policy and more.

“Work makes you smarter. You’re smarter today than you were yesterday,” said Alyce Barr, founding principal of BCS. “Internships enable [you] to replace the blurry imagined image of adult work with one that is rich with detail derived from [your] own experience. . . Your generation will have lots of jobs, many of which you can’t even imagine today.”

Ian Palmer came out to celebrate his daughter Ajani Bethea’s successful completion of her internship.

Surrounded by their teachers, peers and parents, the students thanked their internship supervisors—who were seated on the stage—for “treating me like a person and respecting me,” “giving me a tremendous opportunity to improve people’s lives,” “showing me how to care, love and take care of little kids,” “helping me raise my voice,” “helping me improve my writing and editing,” “entrusting me,” “welcoming me with open arms into the microbiology world and teaching me that big affects small and small affects big,” and “making every day fun and enjoyable.”

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Vincent Alfieri, New York Managing Partner at the Law Firm of Bryan Cave, responded,  “You’re here to thank us, but we’re here to thank you. We are inspired by every one of you—the way you brought energy and dedication in everything you did.”

It is these opportunities that BCS’s underclassmen were alternately eager and nervous about begin the process of pursuing at the school’s semi-annual Model Job and Internship Fair, which took place after the “graduation” ceremony.

Students discussed the internship experience at Brooklyn Collaborative Studies’ semi-annual Model Job and Internship Fair.

The 43 juniors took their place at tables and conducted mock practice interviews with freshmen and sophomores, who also had a chance to ask their older peers what the internship process was like, what they learned, and what advice they could give to them to achieve success.

“Try to have more eye contact,” advised one junior after a mock interview.

“One of the biggest challenges I had was asking questions because it’s kind of intimidating, [but] when you’re working in a professional environment, you don’t want to upset your supervisor or do anything wrong, so ask questions,” advised Nicole Guzmán, a junior from Bay Ridge who just completed an internship at Bryan Cave.

“I learned the most in the emergency room and helped with bedding, getting meds and giving patients water,” explained Ajani Bethea, a junior from East Flatbush who interned at Brooklyn Hospital Center. “I’ve wanted to be a nurse since I was seven and wanted to see if it’s a job I want to pursue. Now I want to be a nurse even more.”

Peter Hoppman, a ninth grade teacher at BCS, noted that this was his students’ “first taste” of interviews.

“For them, even talking to 11th graders is a big thing, so it’s a matter of getting them involved, thinking about the process,” he said, adding that it’s also remarkable to see former students grow up into self-confident young adults. “I taught them as seventh and eighth graders and to see them much more mature, together, strong, standing up and speaking is really nice.”

BCS serves nearly 700 Brooklyn students, 88 percent of them students of color and recent immigrants, 70 percent of them from families living below the federal poverty line. Ninety percent of them graduate (100 percent of the class of 2013 graduated), and 50 percent of them gain private college admission and full scholarships.

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