HUDSON, NY— A $22,335 grant from the Columbia-Greene Workforce Development Board will give at-risk youth at Warren Street Academy in Hudson, NY, access to work-based learning to prepare them for college and careers. “The Columbia-Greene Workforce Development Board is pleased to support Warren Street Academy though this paid internship program,” says Chairman Mike Veeder.
Since its inception, the Academy has been offering its students a workforce development program modeled after a similar program at its sister school, Berkshire Jr. / Sr. High School. Through the program, which began in 2012, students learn how to build their own resumes, write cover letters, and prepare for job interviews. “These skills need to be introduced, modeled, and practiced,” says Bruce Potter, Superintendent of Berkshire Union Free School District, which operates both schools.
Success on and off campus
Before trying out these skills in the real world, students in both programs learn Workforce Readiness Skills in the World of Work course. These include critical thinking and problem solving, teamwork, diversity, leadership, self-direction, and work ethic. “We want our kids earning A’s and B’s before they go into Workforce Development,” says Scott Rondeau, Assistant Director of the Workforce Development Program.
Warren Street Academy student Isaiah prepares food at American Glory in Hudson, NY, where he completed an externship as part of his school's Workforce Development Program.
Students in Hudson can begin working at local businesses once they have mastered the Workforce Readiness Skills. “The program gives our schools more opportunities to interface with the community,” Potter adds. These partnerships are mutually beneficial to both students and community shops and organizations. “Businesses that work with the program trade their mentorship and supervisory skills for help,” says Veeder. “It can be a win-win situation for all involved that can possibly lead to full time employment with the mentoring company.”
On Berkshire’s main Canaan campus, students work in Berkshire’s cleaning and building maintenance service, vending services, maple syrup production, agriculture and horticulture operation, and at its campus pizzeria. The goal is to allow students to experience the working world in a safe, instructive environment that instills values and life skills and proves to them that they are worthy to share their talents. “Most of our youth come from challenging family situations. They’re learning how to be accountable to someone else as well as themselves,” says Potter. “While they build self-worth by earning their own money, they’re also learning to be responsible, hold down a job, and resolve conflict professionally.”
Real world experience
Warren Street Academy, part of BUFSD, provides at risk students with non-traditional school and job options. “Having paid work experience creates a lot of great things that [often] haven’t happened before in a kid’s life,” says Dan Kalbfliesh, principal of Warren Street Academy. “Workforce development combines classroom learning with real world skills. Having a job and paycheck teaches them skills that haven’t been taught in a school setting, like how to get and maintain a job.”
The Academy supports youth by working with them one on one, to help them perform better in school and at their jobs. “We take the time because we’re small enough to be able to go over the questions with them,” says Kalbfliesh. The program makes sure that youth have all the tools they need to get and keep a job. “When at-risk kids are successful outside of school, they will be successful in school.”