Celebrating Early College Initiative at CUNY

| Bradley Michelson, Director of Business Development, Idealist


In November 2016, Idealist, Microsoft, and CUNY brought together 150 students, technologists, educators, and business leaders to celebrate the partnerships that drive an innovative new model that brings STEM career pathways to high school students—the Early College Initiative at CUNY. Over the course of six years, the program provides a high school education along with internship and college experience and works to close the gap between young people’s ambitions for college and careers and the specific skills needed by employers in high growth industries.

More than 20 students who are part of the Early College Initiative attended the event which was at the new Microsoft Reactor Space and part of the Idealist Tech++ event series, appropriately created to bring together students, educators, job seekers, employers, and anyone else interested in the pipeline for social good tech careers.  The students and attendees heard from and were able to speak with industry leaders such as Bradley Michelson from Idealist, Natasha Scantlebury from Microsoft, Robinson Hernandez from the Urban Tech Hub at Grand Central Tech, and Dawn Barber from CUNY Tech Meetup. These leaders exemplified the power of networking and partnerships, and stressed to students to engage with like-minded groups in and out of their own communities.

YouTube Video

A short video about the event and the Early College Initiative.

The event celebrated the collaboration of many of those passionately involved in the program already including Ellen Hogarty of CUNY ECI, Cass Conrad from CUNY, Hilary Ayala from Con Edison, Dana Politis from Montefiore Medical Center, Denise Ward from the Queensborough Community College, and Reina Utsunomiya from NYC Department of Education. There was wonderful discussion about how the program disrupts the current educational system by offering a focused track for high school students, including Destiny Jacobs and Bryann Sandy, who shared how their ECI internships gave them invaluable experience at IBM and NYC Transit. Partner companies also present in joining the celebration were New York Presbyterian, National Grid, the 4A’s, and more.

Partnerships are the cornerstone of the ECI learning model–especially those that provide students with internships and a formative first-work experience. These internships enable students to heighten their understanding of the world of work, refine their technical skills, and contribute to employers’ project-based needs.  Internships help students experience the connection between work and learning.  The Early College Initiative views internships as closely supervised work experiences informed by an intentional learning strategy.  To that end, ECI is committed to providing eligible students with at least one internship experience during their enrollment at a 9-14 Early College & Career School. Additionally, all students will have access to a wide array of work-exposure activities, including mentoring, job shadowing, and more.

ECI embraces seven guidelines for identifying appropriate partnership sites for students currently enrolled in 9-14 Early College & Career Schools.  Internships endorsed by the Early College Initiative must:

  1. Extend the knowledge gained in the classroom and identify clear learning outcomes.
  2. Provide an opportunity to gain transferrable skills.
  3. Clearly identify a defined work period (beginning and end date), number of hours per week, and job description with specific qualifications.
  4. Identify a designated supervisor and/or mentor with at least three years of professional experience in the field.
  5. Include constructive feedback from the designated supervisor, and provide multiple opportunities to observe the internship site.
  6. Exhibit adequate employer resources to facilitate interns’ success: (i.e. work space)
  7. Clearly identify specific projects for the intern to complete.

Please reach out if you are interested in learning more about sponsoring academic year and summer internship opportunities at [email protected]. If you are interested in being part of the Idealist Tech++ event series, please reach out to [email protected].

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