Learning to Work Internships Support Academic Success
In early 2011, Stephanie had had enough of high school. Constantly getting into trouble and with graduation a long way off, she was ready to drop out. Before she left, the school's guidance counselor suggested that she consider West Brooklyn Community High School (WBCHS) - a transfer high school uniquely designed to support teens at risk of dropping out.
When Stephanie decided to enroll at WBCHS in March; she immediately noticed the difference between WBCHS and her old high school.
"Everyone was so willing to stop and listen and help students with problems," says Stephanie. "I was able to quickly build relationships with staff and other students. And by my second week there, I had a job!"
WBCHS, a partnership between Good Shepherd Services and the NYC Department of Education, serves young people who are over-age and off-track for graduation and have recommitted to earning their diploma and developing positive, post-secondary plans for their lives. The collaboration provides students with essential academic and non-academic support to help them overcome obstacles to success. Students are connected with an advocate counselor who is responsible for engaging them around their goals and interests and holding them accountable for meeting benchmarks.
"Learning to Work" program (LTW), a city-funded initiative which seeks to enhance the school's academic curriculum by offering students job readiness and career exploration opportunities, is an important tool used by the staff at WBCHS and other transfer schools. Part of the Good Shepherd Services team, the WBCHS' LTW Coordinator works to identify paid internships related to student interests, matches students with internship sites, and provides support to both the students and the employers to ensure that the internship experience is a success.
"We use the internships to motivate students to improve their school attendance and grades" says Mark McCaskill, internship coordinator at WBCHS.
The LTW internships help students develop positive workplace habits and skills and identify career options. Students are placed at local businesses, government and non-profit agencies such as administrative offices, senior centers, cultural institutions, child care centers and hospitals for 10 hours a week during the school year. Internships also include participation in weekly seminars focused on post-secondary planning and career development facilitated by the LTW Coordinator.
Stephanie was first placed at an after-school program operated by Children of the City in Sunset Park. She wanted to work with children because felt the need to give back to her community. "Working with kids was inspiring," Stephanie says. "The staff had so much patience and passion; I knew this was something I wanted to do."
She went on to be placed at Knock, Knock Day Care Services and the Center for Family Life's community school at PS 1 also in Sunset Park. At PS 1, Stephanie became very involved in an advocacy campaign to preserve city-funded child care services.
In June, Stephanie graduated from WBCHS with her high school diploma. She credits the combination of academic support and real world experience with motivating her to successful. This fall, she began her studies at the Borough of Manhattan Community College and hopes to be a guidance counselor or teacher.