CTE students ready to apply their knowledge in real-world settings

Work-Based Learning internships to get underway with community partners  

two auto tech students by open car hood

The Work-Based Learning Department at the Southern Westchester BOCES Career Services campus in Valhalla is sending several students off campus soon to gain real-world work experience, thanks to opportunities offered by community partners.

Beginning in mid-January, students will travel to their internships multiple days each week during their CTE class time. 

Three students in instructor Ray Sulla’s Security Law & Policing class will go to Westchester Community College in Valhalla, where they will work with campus security personnel. 

Two of Jason Poniatowski’s Office Skills students will be placed in customer service support roles with Premier Collection auto group in White Plains. 

Automotive Technology Instructor Scott Nelson will have four students interning at Premier Collection or Yonkers Honda. 

two office skills students by computer desk

Work-based learning is an authentic learning opportunity for students to explore their goals, interests, and abilities while applying what they learn in the CTE classroom in the real world. Instructional staff plan and supervise the internship experiences in collaboration with employers. 

“Work-Based Learning is a core component of our instructional program,” Principal Evangelo Michas said. “These internships offer students the chance to apply their in-class instruction in actual workplace settings, giving them experience they might not otherwise gain while still in high school. We are grateful to our community partners for opening their doors to our students in this way.”

Office Skills student Samantha Perkaj, a senior from Irvington, looks forward to returning to Premier Collection, where she helped stage an open house last school year. While this is a prestigious internship placement, that does not intimidate her.

“I don’t think it’ll be that different from what I’m used to because even though it is a little more prestigious, they are still people,” Samantha said. “I’m just another person, and I’m here to help the best I can.”

Classmate Jacqueline Alvarado of New Rochelle will join her on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Both will bring prior work experience that they look forward to expanding upon.

What appealed to Jacqueline  was the chance to interact with the public.

“I’m a big people person,” she said. “I like being around people, being on the phone, communicating and knowing that I can make a difference.”

Mr. Poniatowski said it was exciting to have the program up and running and to see students gain real-world experience. 

“We try to reproduce that here, and this is going to be that next step to try to transition them out there to get that experience,” he said.

The feedback gained from interns and employers in turn helps shape programs and ensure they are meeting the needs of both students and the workforce they are preparing to join.

Mr. Sulla said that it’s often helpful for students to share their workplace experiences in class. His students are eager to find out what they’ll be tasked with doing and how their classroom instruction will apply.

“I’m interested in learning more real-world techniques, to apply what I’ve learned here in real life,” said Tyler Cuevas, a senior at Woodlands High School in Greenburgh.

Classmate Kayleeane De La Rosa, also from Woodlands, admits that as a first-year CTE student this will be a new experience but one she’s excited for.

Isabel Martinez, a senior from Port Chester, said the goal is to increase their knowledge of the field from a different perspective. She feels well prepared by her classroom work and looks forward to applying what she’s learned.

Automotive Technology students Juan Cartenas and Lucas Diaz, both from New Rochelle, are eager to learn from the professionals at Premier Collection and Yonkers Honda, respectively. 

Juan plans to become a mechanic, and is looking forward to building his skills and experience in that field. Lucas’s future plans lie in nursing, which he discerned after coming to SWBOCES.

The challenge of his upcoming internship will be to find a way to excel while gaining hands-on experience.

“I’m very knowledgeable about auto mechanics, so I think they’re going to put me with sales or service management, something on the back end,” he said. “It’s a good opportunity.”