For the teenagers who attend Morris Campus High School in the South Bronx, just getting to class can be a struggle. Many face hardships and responsibilities at home that make focusing on school seem like a luxury. Education and opportunities to experience a world beyond their own offer alternatives for these youngsters. To help open the door, McGraw Hill Financial sponsors mentoring programs and potentially life-changing internships for the school’s students.
In August 2013, the Morris Campus High School Educational Internship Program completed its 14th year giving students their first step on the career ladder. Carefully chosen and trained McGraw Hill Financial employees supervised and mentored the 13 students, teaching them essential computer, Microsoft Office and phone skills. The participants worked a 40-hour week in an office-based team and earned an hourly wage during the 6 week internship. Since commuting to and working in Manhattan presents its own set of challenges, we removed some of the financial hurdles by providing public transit tickets and lunch vouchers until students received their first paycheck.
From mentee to office intern
These students’ commitment to their futures originates well before the internship begins with the Big Brothers Big Sisters Mentoring Program. McGraw Hill has conducted a mentoring program, offered to all Morris Campus students, for the past 20 years. Only those who actively take part in the group activities and one-on-one mentoring can apply to take the next step as an intern. The internship application process is real-world and includes an up-to-date resume, current report card and transcript, short essays and an interview. Qualified students who have earned a spot but cannot participate for 40 hours a week due to summer school or other commitments can intern with one of McGraw Hill Financial’s non-profit partners who offer more flexible schedules as well as a unique introduction to the non-profit sector.
Managed by experienced educational consultants, Linda Loffredo and Sheila Stamper, the program encourages students to become valuable members of a workforce team. Although other internship programs teach similar career skills, Sheila and Linda describe the program as unique because, “the program is truly student-focused offering training and experience with office and communication skills but also offering visits to cultural institutions, weekly discussions on current events and ongoing support for students experiencing any difficulties during the program.”
Our goal is to foster personal as well as professional development, helping students overcome hurdles and building their confidence, ultimately setting them on a path to college and career success. Program managers organize weekly Breakfast Workshop discussions geared towards college and post-high school preparedness. Topics include communication skills, money management, and business etiquette as well as world news and current events. Outside the office walls, students enjoy trips to museums and cultural venues.
The intern’s connection with his or her mentor does not end with the summer. Due to both a strong alumni network and dedicated mentors, many interns serve a second year as senior interns and several have been invited back for longer-term positions at McGraw Hill Financial. Amita Nagaraja, Director, Strategic Giving and Community Engagement, the program’s longtime manager, attributes its success to the student-centered approach, “Our internship model is catered to the needs of the student. Over the years we have learned what is most challenging for students and how best to set them up for success in the internship and beyond. We don’t want to just tick off boxes; we truly want to see these deserving and inspiring students succeed.”
Each year, students share their observations and experiences at a lively and emotional closing breakfast, attended by internship supervisors, mentors, alumni interns and friends. Victor Velez, who interned in Corporate Security with Robert Porter at 55 Water Street this summer, shared his thoughts about the impact of the program, “This internship gave us an amazing support system. The skills we have learned go a long way…in the business world, college, and just life in general.”
Corporate responsibility (CR) is an extension of our business strategy. We target our CR strategy and investments to build better lives and stronger communities.
McGraw Hill Financial helps Morris Campus High School students achieve success by:
- Building long-term relationships: This is important at a program and an individual level. Our 20-year relationship with Morris Campus High School and our ongoing contact with a Morris alumni network has helped us understand the students, as well as their needs and interests, and we’ve tried to respond by improving our programs to serve them better. The one-on-one nature of mentoring relationships builds trust, fosters open communications, and ensures that the program is meaningful for every participant.
- Focusing on the students: Our internship program is designed to help the students grow, flourish and succeed. With this in mind, we’ve adapted the program over time to be more holistic - giving students the relevant real-world experience they need, as well as introducing them to cultural institutions and other opportunities they may not otherwise have access to.
- Breaking down barriers: Many students who want to develop business skills and gain real world experience during the summers face challenges including summer school, financial need, or family obligations. Flexible internship opportunities with nonprofit partners and financial support are simple ways that we have opened doors for many students that might otherwise be unable to participate.