Yariela Kerr-Donovan remembers well that week in March 2020: Not only was her team being sent home to work remotely, but the 400 high schoolers she would be responsible for in the Johns Hopkins Summer Jobs Program would have no place to go.
"I started to worry by the end of March," Kerr-Donovan, senior director of Strategic Workforce Development for Johns Hopkins Medicine, said recently over Zoom. "But then we spun on a dime."
Some 1,200 Baltimore City students, ages 15 to 21, had already applied for the opportunity to work during the summer at the university or health system, and many of the interviews had already taken place. And she had just two months to pivot the program to an online format. So, of course she did.
Working with the city's YouthWorks program, which spearheads the application process, and taking advantage of a national online platform she already had in place, Kerr-Donovan and team members Katie Frey, Sharon Harrison, and Laura Ostrowski implemented a virtual program that would have the same deliverables as an onsite one: providing the students with workforce development tools, college and career readiness, and personal and academic enrichment. The students worked virtually in cohorts, were mentored by Johns Hopkins employees, and heard from speakers who included Baltimore Mayor Elect Brandon Scott.
"This program has made me more confident in completing my goals by giving me the skills necessary to do so," said 2020 participant Boubacar Sall at the end of the program. Added Deena Schweikert, "The activities helped motivate me to think more about my career."
Now in its 27th year, the Johns Hopkins Summer Jobs Program is looking for departments and individuals that can offer virtual work or mentoring to another 400 Baltimore City students. The program will run from June 28 to Aug. 6, and the positions are fully funded by Johns Hopkins.
In a recent email enlisting support for this year's effort, university President Ronald J. Daniels and health system President Kevin Sowers wrote, "Although we continue to navigate and respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, we remain committed to finding ways to engage Baltimore City students in opportunities that promote exposure to careers and workplace culture while providing a meaningful educational and mentoring experience that fosters personal responsibility."
There are two tracks of involvement:
- Host departments will provide a meaningful virtual assignment that they will direct for the full six weeks of the program, including a department orientation, supervision, and work experience.
- Mentors will be assigned a cohort of students with whom they will engage on a virtual platform. Responsibilities include attending speaker sessions and facilitating daily cohort discussions. Program content will be provided.
Details and trainings will be given to those expressing interest in hosting or mentoring students.
"Through our collective investment and with the continued support of Johns Hopkins' departments and volunteers, our Summer Jobs Program will continue to positively affect the lives and futures of Baltimore City students," Daniels and Sowers wrote.
Those interested in participating are asked to complete this form by April 30.
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