How do I write a resume? What will I be asked in a job interview? What do I wear to an office?
Questions surrounding career readiness can be intimidating for all high school students, but especially those without a support network of family, friends, or counselors ready to provide the answers.
“Growing up in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, I didn’t know many people who went to college, or what an internship even was,” says Jharol Aguirre, a 2016 graduate of Leaders and a former NYC Outward Bound Schools Crew Mentor. “This is a common experience for many students, even the high-achieving ones.”
Being a Crew Mentor at NYC Outward Bound Schools increased my own social capital…and showed me that I really wanted to be in a role where I could have direct contact with students, and help young people who shared similar challenges, succeed.
Jharol, now a recent graduate of Queens College, is helping to break down these barriers through his position at First Workings, a nonprofit that builds students’ social capital — or network of relationships and experiences — through career readiness support, mentorships, and paid internships.
As a program manager at First Workings, Jharol focuses on student programming and high school partnerships — and recently brought two NYC Outward Bound Schools on board — West End Secondary School, and his own alma mater, Leaders.
“I am so happy to see Jharol continue his passion for working with students,” says Yana Geyfman, Alumni Manager at NYC Outward Bound and supervisor of the Crew Mentors program. “As a Crew Mentor, he already made enormous contributions to the lives of students he supported through their first year of college, and now, he is continuing to create diverse opportunities for NYC Outward Bound Schools students. I am super excited for this partnership to come to fruition!”
Working with high school counselors at partnership schools, Jharol recruits juniors to apply to and interview for the program. Accepted participants then begin attending virtual workshops ranging in topics from Communication in the Workplace to Interview Skills, Networking and Financial Literacy. Last year, First Workings served 78 students from 13 schools across New York City. All students earned a stipend for participating in First Workings programming.
“My colleagues and I built the curriculum based on our own student experience,” says Jharol. “I saw Emily — my college counselor at Leaders — give so much care to every single senior at my school. We kept in touch when I went to college and she supported me through it all. But not all students in NYC are receiving that type of treatment. So I tell myself, ‘That’s the experience I want others to have when it comes to career readiness.’”
As they progress through the First Workings program, students are connected with a professional mentor or placed in a paid internship. First Workings partners with financial institutions, law firms, media corporations, fashion companies, architecture firms, nonprofits, and hospitals around the city to help ensure that students are matched to the industry of their choice. Once students have completed the program, First Workings also provides alumni support so that students continue developing social capital and professional skills.
Jharol emphasizes to his students that it’s no longer enough to have a degree and that you need real-world experience and connections to get ahead. But he also reinforces that his students are talented, and they provide value to their employer. Confidence is key.
“Being a Crew Mentor at NYC Outward Bound Schools increased my own social capital and led me to this opportunity,” says Jharol, who shifted his career path from political science and business to education. “It showed me that I really wanted to be in a role where I could have direct contact with students, and help young people who shared similar challenges, succeed”.