About 40 middle school students from the South Bronx have a greater sense of their educational and career potential, thanks to a two-day clinic organized by Fordham’s Graduate School of Education.
Students from the Hunts Point Alliance for Children (HPAC) attended the Career Education Mentoring Program at Fordham’s Lincoln Center campus on Feb. 16 and April 6.
“The goal was to help them create a vision for their futures that includes education and careers,” said Jennie Park-Taylor, Ph.D., an assistant professor of counseling psychology at Fordham who helped stage the program with HPAC staff.
Park-Taylor had been working with HPAC for a year when the children said that they didn’t know a lot of career-minded adults who could act as mentors.
“We decided to do this program so they could learn about the high school admissions process and to introduce them to people from various fields with whom they could connect,” Park-Taylor said.
She and the HPAC staff combed their Rolodexes to bring a wide variety of successful professionals to the event. Students spent time with professionals in fashion, education, counseling, technology, accounting and the performing arts.
Students also picked the brains of doctoral student mentors, and—closer to home—high school student mentors who grew up in Hunts Point, a low-income area of the Bronx where nearly half of all households earn less than $15,000 annually, according to HPAC.
“Programs like this benefit us because we can see and get motivated by people who have succeeded,” said Joshua Santana, a senior at All Hallows High School who plans to attend SUNY Maritime Academy this fall. “For the middle school students, they can learn how important high school is, instead of finding out the hard way.”
Park-Taylor said the event planning committee chose the Lincoln Center campus to host the event so that the youngsters could have a positive experience at a university.
“They’ve responded beautifully to that. We held a focus group after the first day of the institute, and when we asked them what their experience was like, some of them said it was the most beautiful school they had ever seen,” she said. “Others said they were excited to see college students and be in a college atmosphere.”
In addition to interviewing career mentors, students also participated in workshops that focused on content areas such as stress and coping as well as interpersonal communication skills, said Deidre Schwiring, a first-year graduate student at GSE who helped throughout the program.
“A lot of these children aren’t growing up in the easiest neighborhoods, but they are here, so obviously they have the motivation and desire to do something with their lives,” Schwiring said. “We’re really hoping we can give them tools to help them realize their potential and show them that they can be anything they want to be.”