Vol. 12 No. 2 - September, 2009

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Summer jobs 'Building Brighter Futures With Youth'

BBF
Robert Carlin Photography
North High School senior German Fuentes (right) with mentor Elisa Borowy of the Office of Public Safety

Beyond having extra spending money, teens working summer jobs also earn real-world experience and exposure to career options. This summer, 25 Worcester high school juniors and seniors reaped these benefits at UMass Medical School, an experience made possible in collaboration with the citywide Building Brighter Futures With Youth program.

Launched by the United Way of Central Massachusetts in 2002, Building Brighter Futures (BBF) is a broad-based strategic initiative to help youth transition successfully to adulthood. A major component of BBF, in partnership with along with the Worcester Public Schools and various city agencies and employers, has been creating meaningful job opportunities for city teens. This is the first year that UMMS joined other area employers, including UMass Memorial Medical Center, to hire youth in partnership with BBF.

The foundational experience you had here this summer

will make a difference in how you approach life and how you will find success.

Superintendent of Worcester Public Schools Melinda Boone, PhD
BBF group
Worcester high school students who participated in Building Brighter Futures at UMass Medical School paused for a group photo at the closing ceremonies

Last spring, a broad range of departments responded to a call  from the Department of Human Resources and the Diversity and Equal Opportunity Office (DEOO) to create six-week employment opportunities for program applicants. While students performed primarily entry-level clerical tasks, departmental supervisors and mentors also made sure their charges were exposed to a variety of learning opportunities. With many of them interested in careers in health care, the student employees appreciated the opportunity to observe and experience different aspects of a dynamic and diverse academic health sciences center. “I didn’t think there were so many things you could do here,” said Worcester Technical High School student Claude Dorelus, who worked in the operations office of the UMass Memorial Foundation.

Aspiring nurses Emily Holden and Chelsea Kaczawka of Burncoat High School performed a variety of tasks in the Center for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine. “Whatever field they decide to go into, they will be well prepared due to this real-world experience,” said their mentor Maria Borowski, training director for the center. Assisting with admissions paperwork in the Graduate School of Nursing was similarly enlightening for prospective anesthesiologist and Worcester Tech student Natalie Coates, who said, “I learned about what is involved in applying to graduate school.”

The six-week experience was capped off with a luncheon, at  which program participants reflected on their experiences. North High School student Stephanie Anjos, who had opportunities to interact with world-class scientists in the Department of Biochemistry & Molecular Pharmacology, expressed the sentiments of fellow participants when she said, “I couldn’t have asked for a better experience—I wish it didn’t have to end!”  New Superintendent of Worcester Public Schools Melinda Boone, PhD, was a special guest at the event. “The foundational experience you had here this summer will make a difference in how you approach life and how you will find success,” she told the students.

In fact, employment at UMMS isn’t ending for all of them: three have been hired to continue working during the school year, fulfilling a BBF goal of creating longer-term employment opportunities. Other students are hoping to return next summer, and with plans already under way to increase the number of BBF summer jobs available at next year, the institution looks forward to welcoming familiar and new faces alike.