University of Rochester

Currents--University of Rochester newspaper

Program connects teens with mentors


Mariah James

Mariah James was one of the students who participated in the Work-Scholarship Connection at Hillside program. Currently, twelve students from the Rochester City School District have been placed in positions across the University.

This fall the University of Rochester is strengthening its commitment to Rochester’s youth with the expansion of the Work-Scholarship Connection at Hillside program. In collaboration with the Hillside Family of Agencies and Wegmans Food Markets, Inc., the program offers employment opportunities, career exposure, and medical, dental, and vision services to at-risk teens from the Rochester City School District.

“We’ve created a new system that will offer guidance for students and employers,” says Suzanne Lee, the University’s Work-Scholarship Connection at Hillside Collaboration Director. “We’ve looked at other employers, like Wegmans and Unity Health, taken their best practices and customized them for the University.”

Currently, 12 students have been placed in positions on the River Campus and at the Medical Center. Brianna Verbridge, a senior at James Monroe High School, works 10 hours a week during the academic year, performing receptionist and clerical duties for the Center for Community Health.

“Through this job Brianna is learning to take responsibility for her work, participate in a work environment, and see her tasks through to completion,” says Nancy Bennett, the center’s director. “She has been a wonderful addition to our team and we are happy to contribute to her success in some small way.”

Lee believes that in a coordinated effort with Hillside the program at the University can grow.

“We’d like to hire at least 50 students by the end of June 2010,” says Lee. “We’re looking for employers throughout the University who are willing to be involved and work with the students.”

Ideal employers have part-time, entry-level positions available with evening and weekend hours and a willingness to serve as a mentor for the student. The employers work closely with Hillside-provided youth advocates, who work directly with the students each day, ensuring they’re meeting the expectations of the job. They also have the support of Lee and the University’s newly hired employment accounts manager. They will work to match students with employers based on their personality, skill set, job interests, and work hours.

To enroll, students must meet Hillside’s Triple A criteria: An 80 percent school attendance rate, a minimum academic grade point average of 2.0, and a positive attitude, demonstrated though letters of recommendation. Students will also participate in the Youth Employment Training Academy, a 30-hour program developed by Wegmans that teaches service and management skills.

“The students are motivated and contribute to the work team,” Lee says. “They’re actively engaged, responsible, and respectful. Like most teens, they need guidance and a helping hand from a trusted adult.”

Employers like Bennett believe there is a sense of mission with the program.

“We’re dedicated to the concept of placing students in jobs that give them the skills they need for a successful future,” she explains. For the students, the opportunity provides exposure to mentors, avenues for career exploration, and medical care they might not otherwise receive.

For more information about the program, e-mail Suzanne Lee at suzannep_lee@urmc.rochester.edu.

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