Teachers, administrators, parents and community members sat at long tables adorned with floral centerpieces in the Baldwin High School cafeteria Dec. 12 to celebrate students’ achievements at the School to Career Breakfast.
The event recognized students’ experiences and opportunities earned through partnerships that the district shares with corporate sponsors, including Northwell Health, Long Island Jewish Valley Stream, Adelphi University, Molloy College and Junior Achievement, a national nonprofit organization that hosts work-readiness programs for students.
Over the past 20 years, the district has built a number of school-to-career partnerships, including shadow days, internships, career fairs, leadership summits, competitions, mentoring and work experience. At the breakfast, students also spoke about what they have learned while enrolled in the high school’s Academic Academies, which focus on education, government and law, media and more.
“Today’s School to Career Breakfast celebrates our belief that, together, it is possible to support our students’ ownership of his or her education,” the high school’s assistant principal, Michelle Kwon, said. “Our significant partnerships are continuing to groom our leaders of tomorrow in the medical, STEM, law, culinary, education, media and business worlds.”
Kwon thanked administrators “for supporting our students beyond the classroom walls,” and Pat Van Hazel for playing an instrumental role in the School to Career program.
Ashley Ganesh, a junior in the Law Academy, participated in the Spark Challenge, a competition sponsored by Northwell Health that enables high school students to take part in on-site career days. Last month, Ganesh visited one of the hospital’s Human Resources departments and met with lawyers to get a taste of what their jobs were like.
“From the moment I walked through the doors of their facility, the first thought that went through my brain was, ‘Wow, imagine being able to work here?’” Ganesh said. “My jaw completely dropped. I was in awe.”
Kwon said that Northwell Health’s Spark Challenge program provides students with opportunities to explore a variety of career avenues that exist within its network. BHS is the only high school on Long Island that participates in six Spark Challenges. “That’s really a huge accomplishment,” she said.
“The beauty of Spark Challenge lies in the experience of meeting with actual professionals and having the opportunity to step into their shoes at their own workplace,” Ganesh said. “I can definitely see myself practicing health care law, hopefully at Northwell, and using my position to really help other people. This was by far my favorite field trip I’ve ever been on. . . . I’m incredibly grateful to be part of a program that enables students to really live their dreams.”
“My experience at Cohen Children’s Medical Center was one of a kind,” said Alexis Lund, a senior in the Medical Academy. She visited the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and shadowed a neonatal nurse for an hour. “I’ve . . . wanted to be a neonatal nurse for a while now,” she said, “but I wasn’t 100 percent sure and considered other specialties, but after this trip there’s no doubt in my mind that I want to be this type of nurse.”
Students also spoke about creating and donating artwork as part of the Calming Murals Project, which Kwon said was started to bring peace, inspiration and healing to patients undergoing treatment at Long Island Jewish Valley Stream and Northwell Health Center for Advanced Medicine.
Lia Sookdeo, a BHS senior who is part of the Junior Achievement Ambassador program, said that through High School Heroes, she learned about leadership, collaboration and giving back to the community.
“This opportunity has provided me with invaluable experiences such as networking and connecting with industry professionals at different events,” Sookdeo said.
The Junior Achievement High School Heroes program, Kwon explained, is a service-learning program in which high school students work with elementary students by teaching them literacy lessons.
Ester Viera, a BHS junior, recently visited Meadow Elementary School to be a teacher for a day as part of the High School Heroes program.
“I think I speak for almost everyone when I say that this trip was a meaningful, eye-opening experience and provides elementary school students with a high school role model to look up to,” Viera said.
Students also shared their experiences with the Hofstra Policy Hackathon, the Baldwin Chamber of Commerce Annual Holiday Celebration Contest, Career Opportunities in the Accounting Profession, MENTOR New York and more programs that the district offers students.
“We’ve sort of been out on a national roadshow with the program that we have in Baldwin,” Superintendent Dr. Shari Camhi said. “The world is starting to change, and the field of education is starting to change . . . What’s changing is that people are recognizing that, particularly high schools, but education in general has to be more than sitting in a classroom listening to somebody impart their knowledge, doing activities and exercises and then taking a test to see if you’ve learned it. People are starting to realize that schools are not about schools — it’s about learning.”
Camhi thanked the corporate sponsors involved in the various programs.
“You guys have given [the students] the opportunity to show just how amazing they are,” she said, “and to give them the experiences they need to make really, really good decisions about the next phase of life.”