Boston Collegiate juniors get taste of workforce life

BCCS student Tayvian DePina is pictured with Todd Whelan from Stoughton-based HVAC company JC Higgins. Photo courtesy BCCS

Last month, members of the junior class at Boston Collegiate Charter School completed a two-week long internship in a professional setting as part of the school’s Collegiate Skills Program.

Through the program, students choose an internship at a site relevant to their career interests and complete 55 hours of on-site, hands-on work, gaining important experience in a professional environment and a better understanding of their career and college major options.

The Mayhew Street-based school sends its students all across Boston to work at corporations, small businesses, hospitals, government offices, and nonprofits. As an institution centered around college preparation, BCCS considers its internship program, started over a decade ago, an integral part of the curriculum.

“This internship program is a capstone to the BCCS student experience and is a vital component of our school’s mission to prepare each student for success in college and beyond,” said Shannah Varón, executive director of BCCS. “Studies have shown that the vast majority of companies believe that high school students with internship experience have a competitive advantage when applying for college-level internships and full-time jobs.”

In an interview with the Reporter last week, a handful of BCCS students discussed their experiences with their respective internships.
Sarah Purvis, 17, of Mattapan, said her two weeks with Fidelity Investments got her thinking about her future.

“Just being able to learn more about the stock market, and, like, the difference between a stock and a bond...it actually really excited me to invest into a company,” she said. “I’m not old enough to do it yet – I have to wait until I’m 18. But I’m definitely thinking about putting the extra money that I have on a disk so that I can get more interest back, and so when I turn 18, I’ll have more money to invest.”

Another student, 18-year-old Tayvian DePina of West Roxbury, interned with Turner Construction. He said he was about “50 percent sure” he wanted to enter the construction field as a carpenter. But after seeing firsthand the different jobs performed on a Turner construction site, he said he can picture himself more clearly in a similar setting.

“When I first went, it felt like home,” he said. “I met carpenters, I met laborers, I met pipers, I met a lot of different people, I got to do some hands-on things...it definitely pushed me more to go down that route.”

Stephen Jimenez of Dorchester got a taste of the legal world as an intern with the Suffolk County DA’s office, where he says he got to spend a good deal of time in the courtroom observing arraignments and trials. Jimenez, 18, said the experience wasn’t necessarily reflective of what you see on shows like “Law and Order.”

“You see the basic trial on TV but it’s actually more than that,” explained Jimenez. “It’s more formal. The judge really controls the room and the prosecutors have to listen to what they say.”

Jimenez added that being in a busy courthouse setting taught him the importance of time management. “One second you’re in an arraignment, the next second you gotta go to a trial. So, you have to start budgeting your day out so you don’t waste time and you aren’t late for anything, ‘cause judges really hate when you’re late.”

Katie Crowley, a junior from West Roxbury, interned with Grove Hall-based nonprofit Freedom House, where she sat in on board meetings and helped to plan a youth involvement program.

“Everyone there was so welcoming,” said Crowley. “They set aside time for us to ask questions about how they all ended up there and it was interesting just to see the different career paths that everyone took.”

In addition to valuable life experience, BCCS college counselor Sarah Miller said that the school’s internship program can provide big boosts elsewhere, particularly on college applications.

“As a counselor who has worked in college admissions, (I know) that this piece is going to actually be much more important than they realize now; when it comes time to apply to colleges, it’s huge,” said Miller.

Having those workplace hours on their record can sometimes push a candidate over the top, she said, even if their test scores or GPAs are subpar.

Resume-building aside, the program is also meant to be fun for students, who get a break from their normal academic routine and a chance to experience one or two perks of office life.

For Purvis, the Fidelity offices proved eye-opening in this regard. “There was free coffee, hot chocolate, and tea all the time!” she gushed.