Employer partners help local youth chase dreams
OPDC’s youth program, School 2 Career (s2c), recently created several new relationships with area employers to offer Oakland, Hill District and Uptown youth more opportunities for hands-on experience in the career fields of their choice. Through the generosity of McAuley Ministries, we were able to increase the program’s enrollment in the last year and hire a Career Placement Specialist to expand our network of partner employers. The year-round program provides academic support to low-income high school students, while also guiding them through individualized assessments and trainings to prepare for college and explore a variety of professions they may be interested in pursuing. Students earn stipends for their work, and their employer mentors communicate regularly with S2C staff as they progress through the year.
After completing a summer orientation session, each S2C student takes a series of personality and skill assessments, called the COPS-P system, under the guidance of our Education Specialist. Based on those assessment results, staff break down different options within that field for the student to consider. “For example, if the results show a student is a good fit for law, we go over a list of different careers within law one can pursue,” Lavel Claytor, S2C’s Career Placement specialist explained. “From there, I start networking with our partner employers to see where we can plug the student in for a valuable job shadowing experience.” Lavel added that because S2C is an Oakland-based organization, they typically start with UPMC to see what opportunities they have available. “UPMC has been our partner for many years and has so many options to offer the students,” Lavel says. “But as our enrollment grows, so does the diversity of our students’ interests and the need to expand the network of companies we work with.”
“We spend a lot of time talking to the kids and finding out what their strengths and weaknesses are before discussing placements,” S2C Director Karla Stallworth says. “I recently had a student tell me he wants to be a video game designer. So, I asked him what he’s currently doing to explore and stimulate that creativity, and he didn’t have an answer. That’s where we come in—to help them further develop their interests and goals and experiment with different career trajectories before they choose a course of study in college.”
As the school year draws to an end, we thought it would be fun to answer some of the many questions you all have been asking by highlighting a few of the students and the work they’re doing in local companies in our e-newsletter.
In this first edition, we’ve chosen to highlight two different placements in the field of technology, both with companies that are new to our network of employers this year. Both students have been in the program since they were in 9th grade, and we’re pleased to show off their achievements before they graduate!
If your company would like to partner with S2C for a student placement, contact Lavel Claytor at email@example.com or 412.621.3821. Check out our growing list of partner employers here.
Taylore: Maya Design, Inc.
Taylore W. is a senior who, upon entering the S2C program as a freshman, knew he loved computers but wasn’t sure what to do with that interest. After experimenting with a few placements, Taylore feels he’s really found his niche at MAYA Design, Inc., a technology design firm and innovation lab that helps companies design more usable and useful technology products, as well as information-rich services and environments. Working under I.T. Director Chris DeMarco, Taylore’s learning the ins and outs of computer software and hardware, as well as programming cutting edge business tools such as Kivo and Echo Smartpens. “It’s wonderful to have a young person around who is so interested in how everything works,” DeMarco told us.
Like all S2C students Taylore keeps a work journal tracking his progress at the placement:
December 2011: “Maya Design is such a wonderful company. They have me doing all kinds of projects this month. I am wiring old rotary phones and working mainly with computers. Everyone there is so nice and intelligent. The atmosphere they create for me is one for a regular employee. This placement is great.”
January 2012: “The current project I am working on is removing and destroying hard drives from computers. I am also fixing the KiVo, which is the mobile TiVo created for conferences. I am using a video camera, a projector, an Apple Mac mini, and a Wii controller to perform my project. The most interesting part of the project was putting the Kivo back together. It’s kind of fun and is starting to get really interesting for me. “
February 2012: “I am currently working on programming Echo Smartpens for a convention that Maya is having. An Echo Smartpen is a pen that records voices for note-taking and makes them digital. Maya is doing some type of study with the pens. We are using the Livescribe software that comes with the pens. This software gives the pens their identity and launches the cameras that are inside the pen as well as the voice recognition tactics.”
Chris: University of Pittsburgh Human Engineering Rehabilitative Laboratory
Chris C., another longtime S2C participant, is also preparing to graduate this year. Chris first became interested in pursuing engineering when his high school participated in the Carnegie Science Center’s “Engineers Week” when he was a sophomore. Chris enjoyed the event so much that he asked S2C to try and find him a placement at the museum. What started as a summer experience quickly evolved into a part-time job, and as he entered his senior year of high school, Chris was ready to supplement his engineering knowledge with more experience in a new setting.
That’s when Lavel found the University of Pittsburgh Human Engineering Rehabilitative Laboratory (HERL), a research facility that strives to continuously improve the mobility and function of people with disabilities through advanced engineering in clinical research and medical rehabilitation. Chris is now working there as an Engineering Intern under the supervision of a graduate student intern. He’s gaining hands on engineering experience designing and constructing items to assist veterans on a project born out of HERL’s partnership with the Pittsburgh VA.
Take a look at what Chris has been learning over the last two months:
January 2012: “I’ve been working with Nathan on his shooting chair project. The purpose of the shooting chair is to assist disabled veterans that are missing a leg or an arm to participate in air rifle challenges. At this stage, they have me using sandpaper to smooth out the molds to make the frame of the chair. I learned a little about some of the manufacturing machines and some new tricks with the Solid Works C.A.D. program, which is 3D, mechanical design software that allows you to create objects that look true to life to give you the information and dimensions you needed to build the real thing. I feel this program is really useful when trying to bring something from your mind to life.”
February 2012: “This month at my internship we are continuing to work on the shooting chair for disabled veterans. I am sanding down parts for the mold of the chair. I am starting with an 80-grit sandpaper to smooth the mold, and working my way up to heavier 100-grit sandpaper until the mold is smooth. Once it is smooth I will put wax on it to allow the foam to come off with ease. Now we are in an experimental stage and testing how the foam takes to the mold, which we are using as the frame of the chair. I learned that two ounces of the foam mixture goes a long way.”