It was another banner year for Scholars At Work (SAW), a citywide program that pairs high school and college students with transportation and manufacturing businesses for competitive 13-week paid internships.
This year, 111 graduates from 14 Career and Technical Education (CTE) schools were placed with 58 businesses across the city’s five boroughs. Of the businesses, 28 offered students employment after graduation. In their internships, students completed such tasks as assembly work, automotive repair, customer service, data entry, inventory management, painting, and welding. Many students leave the internship with an offer of employment and are able to take a supervisory role with the next year’s incoming crop of interns.
The class of 2016 – 85% male and 15% female – was the program’s largest since its inception in 2009. In comparison, 103 high school students recruited from 16 CTE schools completed internships at 51 companies in 2015. The program to date has connected more than 1,200 students to internships that give them an unmatched advantage in the job market – experience in a professional work environment, a new skill set, and an opportunity to develop a resume, sharpen their interviewing skills and hone their soft skills in a work readiness workshop.
SAW is funded by the New York City Department of Small Business Services and the Department of Education, in collaboration with Grant Associates, which coordinates the program through the NYC SBS Industrial and Transportation Career Center the company operates in Jamaica, Queens.
At the graduation ceremony held on June 8 at Long Island City High School, emcee Jessica Cracchiolo, Grant’s Director of External Partnerships, said that the program offers a dual benefit: “Connecting students to good jobs and strengthening the businesses operating in the growing industrial and transportation sectors by providing them with tomorrow’s bright, talented employees.”
Sunelly Olivares, who interned with Plexicraft in the Bronx in the company’s production unit, gave the farewell speech to the graduates and honored guests. “The fact that we are all here supports the idea that youth want to succeed,” she said.
Sunelly implored her fellow graduates to think of themselves as surgeons with the same capacity for being determined, resilient in the face of a challenge, disciplined, and for having the willingness to constantly grow in their profession.
“A surgeon is like a super hero. They have the power to change and save people’s lives every day and the lives that they can’t save, they learn from. But that’s how life truly works,” she said. “You prepare yourself to come out on top and be among the best of the best and that’s what surgeons as well as Scholars at Work interns do. Even when they are nervous and inexperienced, they persevere. This builds character, knowledge, and strength.”
The SAW internship, she said, was like a surgeon’s job. “It is where we were able to express our knowledge, continue our research and progress, our quality of work, and our drive to shine and succeed at what we do. We have learned new skills, grown mentally, and networked with professionals in the businesses we only wish to grow in. Many of us have our high school graduation right around the corner and the future is yet to unfold. We just have to remember that it all has been worth it and to look at the positive outcomes of this journey.”
In closing, Sunelly encouraged the SAW grads to make a plan, set a goal and work toward it, but to stop and look around every now and then. “Drink it in, because this is it. It might all be gone tomorrow.”