UAlbany Students Help "Digital Youth" Succeed
at Albany senior Melanie Hansen works
with a Bishop Maginn student in the NY
Wired for Education Digital Youth 2005
Certificate Program. hansen said being
an intern in this program gives her experience
in the classroom.
By Greta Petry (April
Cat Provost is one of 12 University at Albany
interns who are helping high school students
acquire job skills through the NY Wired for
Education Digital Youth 2005 Certification
Provost, 22, a senior from Pittstown, N.Y.,
interns twice a week at Troy High at after-school
classes that range from 60 to 90 minutes. The
high school students have been selected in
advance and come from disadvantaged backgrounds.
The idea is to strengthen the job skills of
city youth through their working in the business
community during the summer. Provost and the
other UAlbany students earn $10 an hour but
receive no college credit.
In the first year of the program, 31 Albany
teens from Albany High School and Bishop Maginn
took an online curriculum in computer and professional
skills. They were assisted by College of Saint
Rose interns, and placed, for 20 hours a week
for six weeks, at local businesses recruited
by the Albany Colonie Regional Chamber of Commerce.
"I started interning with NY Wired
in January," Provost said. When she heard
the company was having trouble finding area
college interns, "I knew I could find
reliable students at the University. I sent
out an e-mail to the National Society of Collegiate
Scholars" database, and from there the
internship took off running," she said.
The program was so well received by host
employers that it has been expanded this year.
In January, Senate Majority Leader Joseph L.
Bruno and Rensselaer County Executive Kathleen
M. Jimino each secured $15,000 for the program
in order to train 30 high school students in
Troy and Lansingburgh in "Digital
Afternoons," doubling the number
assisted last year.
Brian Lee, CEO of NY Wired for Education,
said the students from the City of Albany last
year "completed 10 online courses, giving
them work readiness skills. The 31 kids spent
last summer with 23 different businesses, most
private sector (law firms, a newspaper, and
an architectural firm, for example).
"Surveys of both the businesses and
students were positive. This year we expanded
to nine high schools, three counties, and expect
to graduate approximately 140 students," Lee
said. The students are prepared for entry-level
office jobs that include computer skills, phone
skills, and other administrative duties.
The courses give the high school students
a foundation, while the summer employment gives
"The University at Albany interns have
exceeded our expectations," said Lee. "Besides
being bright, they have great attitudes and
work hard. The schools are thrilled with the
quality of the interns." He added, "As
many of our high school students come from
other countries, it is helpful that many of
our interns come from diverse backgrounds."
UAlbany President Kermit Hall recently said
NY Wired "is but one step in building
a world-class workforce but it incorporates
features that I believe are essential to maintaining
and growing a world-class workforce."
Provost said the internship has given her
a greater understanding of the obstacles faced
by disadvantaged youth. "Interning
in these classrooms has given me real perspective
on just how much harder these students have
to work to reach their dreams. Everything from
knowing how to answer the phone correctly or
how to deal with conflicting personalities
at work is new and challenging to the students.
I have a greater appreciation for their dedication
and a greater empathy for their situation."
Provost said she has also gained confidence
in her own public speaking skills. "Commanding
a class of 20 high schoolers is hard enough
during the school day – doing so for
an additional hour and a half, twice a week
after school is even more challenging. I've
become more keen as to what will motivate people
and build their confidence to succeed."
UAlbany sophomore Jane O'Sullivan,
19, of New Rochelle, N.Y., interns at Albany
High School. "I make sure they are following
in the courses," she said. O'Sullivan
is a social welfare major, so working with
underprivileged students gives her work experience
that will be helpful after graduation. "I
would also like to work in a school, so working
in a public school is perfect experience," she
Justina Wahl, 20, a sophomore from Huntington,
N.Y., gave out login names and passwords to
the students in her class at Lansingburgh High.
Wahl supervises the students, explains the
purpose of the program, and answers questions.
"I have really enjoyed this internship," Wahl
said. "I love the students and think
this program is great because it provides students
the opportunity to learn skills they need to
know for any type of job and for social interactions.
It also allows the students to work at their
own pace and rewards them by giving them a
paying internship over the summer."
UAlbany senior Melanie Hansen, 24, of Latham,
N.Y., who interns at Bishop Maginn, said the
students take online classes like The
Basics of Listening and Difficult
People in the Workplace.
Hansen monitors the computer room while the
students are working, and troubleshoots computer
problems. "I keep track of their progress,
and make sure everyone's keeping up with
the work," she said.
While the high school students benefit, the UAlbany
interns gain job experience, too. Hansen said, "Since
I'll be going into the field of education,
this internship is giving me invaluable experience
in the classroom, interacting with the students
and gaining organizational and planning skills
that I will need as a teacher."