City students tell their intern stories as their high school mentors listen in

Markel Vicente, who will begin studying computer science at Roxbury Community College this fall, prepared a presentation on the software development work he did during an internship with Blue Cross Blue Shield this summer. Daniel Sheehan photo

More than 100 teachers, principals, and mentors packed into the Fort Point room at Atlantic Wharf earlier this month to take in the 3rd Annual Boston Youth STEM Showcase, an event in which BPS high schoolers reflect on their experiences from a six-week summer internship program.

Among the group giving presentations was Markel Vicente, a recent graduate of Boston Latin Academy who worked on software development as an intern at Blue Cross Blue Shield this summer. Vicente, whose job mostly involved using metrics to check code for quality, learned two new code languages — Javascript and HTML— through the experience. 

“It was my first time in an office environment, so a lot of it was just learning how to network,” he said.

The internship program is driven by the Boston Private Industry Council (PIC), a nonprofit that works in tandem with Mayor Martin Walsh’s workforce development initiatives to connect youth with positions at some of Boston’s top employers.

PIC has a presence in all 31 BPS high schools and has been effective in creating school-to-industry pipelines. Last year, the council created roughly 2,600 jobs and internships for BPS students through the program, and 54 percent of all BPS graduates found placements.

Executive director Neil Sullivan explained that the idea for the showcase grew from wanting to shine a spotlight on the wide range of work being done by students in the STEM field beyond healthcare and science.

“The idea was really about figuring out how to create a community for them,” he said, adding that he was impressed by the variety of the student presentations, which involved everything from medical lab testing to app software development.

“They’re doing some pretty amazing things and breaking stereotypes about high schools and what kids can do. And they go back with a whole different sense of themselves,” he said.

Sullivan, an Ashmont resident, explained that the program specifically addresses the “talent shortage” by looking at talent in communities of color and “connecting downtown and the neighborhoods.” Through their internships, students learn about the habits of paid work and connecting their education to a job. That exposure is important, he said, in order for kids to get a taste of the working world and to be inspired by different career paths.

“Aspiration precedes motivation, which precedes performance,” he said. “You’ve got to get it in the right order.”