Underserved youths in New York City hone workplace skills through
paid internships and career development training.
New York City not-for-profit organization PENCIL connects local
private and education sectors by creating opportunities for
businesses to partner with and strengthen city public schools. One
of its flagship programs, the PENCIL Fellows Program, provides
on-the-job experiences for high school studentsa large percentage
of whom are underserved youths.
The program offers six-week, paid summer internships that prepare
participants, called fellows, for their future careers. The highly
selective program places an average of 110 to 120 students each
year. Many participants are enrolled in a classroom-based simulated
business curriculum designed by PENCILs partner organization,
Virtual Enterprises International, and must complete an internship
as part of the elective courses requirements.
Following the internship, typically a dozen students continue to
work for their employers part-time while in school. Employer
organizations have included HBO, Elizabeth Arden, JP Morgan Chase,
Beyond the workplace exposure, students are required to complete
written reflections and attend a series of workshops throughout the
summer. Last summers workshops were focused on building a
professional brand and networkinghow students could capitalize on
the connections they made in their placements.
The written reflections help students to wrap their minds around
what their future career paths will look like and how to map them
out, says Gayle Villani, vice president of programs at PENCIL.
Participants reflect on what theyre doing, what they like and dont
like, what their experiences mean for their future careers, and how
to plan a path to get there.
Fellows program staff provide ongoing guidance to participants and
their employers, called business mentors. The staff train fellows
on vital skills, such as job etiquette and resume writing, and
conduct workplace site visits to ensure students are having
The program includes a pre- and post-test to gauge participants
skills building and determine how the experience is affecting their
futures based on their self-efficacy and what theyre learning about
their careers and the workplace, adds Villani. Last summer 100
percent of participants said the experience had an impact, and
three-fourths said it was a significant impact.