Austin Gilliland, Dean, Professional Studies, and Lee Santos Silva, Director, Center for Equity and Cultural Wealth, opened the program with a presentation on equity and cultural wealth, stressing the importance of taking an equity-minded lens to the College’s work connecting students with internship experiences that lead to full-time employment opportunities through BHCC’s “Learn and Earn” initiative, and recognizing the cultural wealth BHCC student interns bring to the workforce.
“The dual pandemics, COVID-19 and uprisings in relation to racial injustices, have really shone a very harsh light on inequities in our communities and magnified them,” said Santos Silva. “As a community college, our mission is to serve our community. That is why we are centered on equity and cultural wealth now. Without a direct, targeted and intense focus on equity, those hit hardest by this pandemic will be the last to recover.”
A Conversation About Equity and Cultural Wealth: Preparing Employers for Community College Interns from The Boston Foundation on Vimeo.
“If you are ready to host community college interns, make mentoring a part of your staff members’ job descriptions,” advised Gilliland. “Our students know how to work, but they may be new to your field and are going to need support. Mentorship should not be an afterthought when developing plans for intern support.”
A student panel discussion featuring current and past Learn and Earn interns followed the presentation. Moderated by Juan Cantu, Program Officer, TBF, panelists included Victoria Luchi, Program Coordinator Intern, Strong Women in Action; Fabiola Mayen Vital, Event Sales & Management Intern, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum; Pedro Russell, Senior Strategies Analyst, Cengage; and Elidijon Tafa, Navigate Marketing Intern, New England Clean Energy Council.
Stephanie Bryszkowski, Director, Internships and Career Development, closed the presentation with an employer panel discussion highlighting the impact student interns can have for employers. Participants included Jamie Banks, Sustainability Consultant, Sustainserv, BHCC alum, and former Learn and Earn intern; Kerry Flentie, Lead Microbiologist, Selux Diagnostics, Inc.; Florette Louissaint, President & CEO, Strong Women in Action (SWIA); and Molly Phelps, Academic Programs Manager, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.
“The health and future of museums depend on having more diverse representation in our staff, in our visitors, and in the narratives we tell,” said Phelps who manages the Gardner Museum’s academic programs. “The museum just finished its second year of the Gardner Ambassador program, working exclusively with BHCC student interns. In prioritizing these paid internship opportunities and equity-minded programming, the Gardner Museum is helping to shape the future of these cultural institutions.”
“The support we’ve received from BHCC’s Office of Internships and Career Development, the BHCC Foundation, and the student interns has driven our work forward,” said Louissaint, who founded nonprofit SWIA to empower families with the resources, tools, and connections to overcome obstacles. “I am so proud of this work and collaboration. Our student interns are making changes in families’ lives; they’re developing curriculum and education; and taking leadership roles on these projects.”
Learn and Earn internship partner SWIA employed five BHCC interns this fall, and will employ five more interns this spring. The internship opportunities are made possible by the BHCC Foundation through a family foundation’s funding.