From School to Work

Learning to Work intern Liz Aponte stands in front of a whiteboard while holding colored file foldersLiz Aponte is learning spreadsheets and other skills in Goddard Riverside’s development department

Angel Valerio wasn’t just looking for a job Ð he was looking for a role model. He found one through our newest program, Learning to Work.

“I wanted to work for a company that’s black-owned,” said the 17-year-old Bronx resident. “I’d like to go into business myself so I wanted to learn the steps.”

The program placed him at Harlem Cycle, an exercise studio that launched three years ago. The owner has taken him under her wing. “She’s showing me how she got to where she is now,” he said. “I’m really learning about running a business.”

Goddard Riverside’s Learning to Work program is located at Edward A. Reynolds West Side High School, a transfer school for students who have faced challenges in other schools or are at risk of not graduating. The program supports students to reengage with school, overcome barriers to attendance and stay on track to get their diplomas. It helps them develop a concrete plan for work or further study after graduating. It also offers paid internships to help them build their resumes and literally learn how to work.   

“We have a wide variety of sites,” said Program Director Jose Manzano, who launched Learning to Work in January. “A lot our sites are child care and office work. We also have a veterinarian’s office and a doggy day care. We’re looking for health care sites and retail Ð those are some of the opportunities our students are most interested in.”

These opportunities may come from any sector of the economy Ð for profit or nonprofit. An internship coordinator works with each business partner to ensure the partnership is productive for both sides. “Our students are most successful when they have structure and opportunities for growth,” said Manzano. “They enjoy being part of the culture of the site.”

Goddard Riverside Learning to Work forms a continuum with our other youth programs to ensure that no-one falls through the cracks and everyone reaches their maximum potential Youth in the program explore interests and talents in areas they may not experience otherwise.

“A high school diploma is important to your future,” said Goddard Riverside’s head of youth and aging programs, Susan Matloff-Nieves. “Young people benefit from experiencing themselves as contributors to society Ð and then applying their strengths to the school and work settings.”

Liz Aponte is interning in Goddard Riverside’s development department, where she’s done research, organized archival photos and helped with events. She’s also starting to work with spreadsheets. “I’ve always worked in retail but I wanted to try an office,” she said. “I never imagined learning Excel!”

Aponte transferred to West Side High after discovering she wouldn’t finish on time at her old school. She’s now on track to graduate and plans to go to college in the fall for forensic science.

“I want to jump right in!” she said. “I need to go to college to do what I want to do.”