UCD’s Skills Initiative Celebrates the Summer Jobs Program

On Friday, August 12, University of Pennsylvania  Executive Vice President Craig Carnaroli, UCD Executive Director Matthew Bergheiser, Director Sheila Ireland and Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell celebrated the accomplishments of 55 West Philadelphians enrolled in the 2011 Summer Jobs Program, a component of UCD’s West Philadelphia Skills Initiative (WPSI). WPSI’s Summer Jobs Program complements UCD’s year-round efforts to connect residents of West Philadelphia with career opportunities at University City’s largest employers. The summer program allows students to understand and develop foundational work skills, which can eventually translate into the basis for a successful long-term career.

WPSI’s Summer Jobs Program has two branches geared toward students at different skill levels. The 30 students who participated in the Service Learning Program for 9th and 10th graders worked in teams to research and address issues in their communities.  They surveyed neighbors about vacant lots, delved into the history of the Lancaster Avenue Business Corridor, and developed marketing tools to educate other teens about sexual health issues like HIV and teen pregnancy.

Twenty-five 11th and 12th graders participated in the Professional Internship Program. Each student was placed in an internship with an area employer, including the Law School at the University of Pennsylvania, Mercy Philadelphia Hospital, Drexel University, University Laboratory Animal Resources, and the National Board of Medical Examiners, where they worked three days a week doing everything from updating files to assisting hospital patients to feeding animals to setting up computers.  Additionally, they attended weekly professional development seminars, where they learned basic work skills.

Zamir Dade, who worked as the Technology Associate at the National Board of Medical Examiners, spoke briefly about his summer. “Working at NBME has been a really good experience, and my coworkers have also been great. Most of the time it doesn’t even feel like I’m working since I’m doing something I love.”

In addition to working as interns, many of the students also participated in a weekly College Access Program facilitated by Andrea Barnes. Here they put together the Common Application and FAFSA paperwork, toured college campuses, learned how to access financial aid opportunities, and started to reflect on the pathways to chosen careers. At the ceremony, these students were acknowledged for their participation in the program by receiving a t-shirt from their first college of choice as a way of encouraging them to complete the necessary steps to attaining college admission.

The internship program is an important way for the students to develop the skills necessary to succeed even in a highly-competitive job market, and the closing ceremony was a joyous celebration of the whole process.

For more information about the Skills Initiative, contact Sheila Ireland at sheila@universitycity.org.

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