Terra Summer Internship Program Develops Student Leadership Skills

     Published on 8/12/15   Tagged under:    District News   

The Terra Science and Education Program offered 18 SCSD high school students from all five district high schools the opportunity to participate in a summer internship and leadership program, all rolled into one!
Each weekday morning, students participate in an internship with a local organization, funded through CNY Works. They return to the Syracuse Academy of Science, where Terra is based, for lunch, and then they spend the afternoon hours in a discussion-based class.
The focus? “We want to talk about things that get overlooked in academic curriculum,” Program Director Josh Turnquest explained, noting that students discuss things like population and race through the lens of environment, homelessness and hunger, and immigration.
As Fowler student Hamdi Farah explained, “We learn about things we don’t learn about in school. We have learned about what people went through and that people are resilient!”
Josh said that through the internships, coupled with class discussions requiring students to think critically, a wide variety of viewpoints and breakthroughs present themselves.  “We are challenging the stereotypes and negative viewpoints that are often created,” he explained. “We want to instill in them a sense of service and we ultimately want these kids to develop skills that will bring them further than just this program. We want to build the next generation of city leaders.”
That mission is certainly hitting home for Corcoran student Zacqueline Baldwin, who interned with the Food Bank of Central New York. “This is a great opportunity to learn about the community—what is wrong and what we can do about it,” she explained. “We’re kids, so we have the power to grow up and change what’s wrong.”
Fowler student Issa Layli, who interned at the Rescue Mission Warehouse, said the experience was beneficial in many ways. “We’ve learned about the history of the people in the Syracuse area,” he said. “So it’s been fun to do community service. And it will be good to put on my resume!”
Fellow Rescue Mission intern Hani Dirye said she feels proud as she sorts shoes and clothes to be distributed at the organization’s thrift stores. “It feels good to help,” she said.
In the summer leadership program, Wednesdays are reserved for field trips or guest speakers. This year, students have visited the Onondaga Historical Museum, the Erie Canal Museum, the Matilda Joslyn Gage House and other locales.
ITC student Josolyn Malone served her internship at the Terra office, where she worked in outreach, helping to spread the word about upcoming Terra events and providing a teenage perspective on the program to community members.
Aside from expanding her understanding of history and culture, Josolyn said the program has improved her confidence as well. “My communication skills are getting way better,” she said. “I used to be so shy and I would get nervous talking. I was afraid of saying something wrong. But here, they have taught me that I just need to ask—even if I am wrong, I will learn the right information. That’s helped me a lot.”
At Terra’s ‘Transforming Urban Education’ Conference in October, students from the Summer Leadership Program will have the chance to put their new leadership skills to work, taking part in a panel discussion where they will present their suggestions for improving issues facing the City of Syracuse to an audience of teachers and administrators. Congratulations to these students for their interest in becoming strong leaders!