Four students from Cleveland’s St. Martin De Porres High School work study program have been making their mark here at John Carroll University. A longtime sponsor of the program, JCU has the students come to work on campus five times per month, learning real world job skills and building résumés for the future.
With nine employees of St. Martin De Porres being either alumni or having previous work experience at JCU, the high school holds close ties with the University. Jessica Shuleva, St. Martin De Porres’ onboarding and retention specialist, says that the school’s tagline, “Transforming urban Cleveland one student at a time,” is the key to the mission at the high school, giving students the opportunity to intern at one of 116 businesses, organizations and schools within the greater Cleveland area.
“The thing that brings me a lot of joy in this is seeing people in the greater Cleveland business community light up when they talk about the program,” said Shuleva. “Leaders in the community, people whose days are completely booked, calendars are full, yet they will always make time to speak with me about the work study program. It shows their commitment to the future of Cleveland. By participating in the program, they can all say they’ve had a hand in the success of our school.”
Adam Green, JCU liaison to the St. Martin De Porres work study program and head of circulation at the Grasselli Library and Breen Learning Center, spoke of the students’ impact at JCU.
“I think the students not only bring practical work assistance, as in legitimately helping the workflows of each department, but also their enthusiasm and courtesy helps to create a family atmosphere within each department,” Green said. “St. Martins does a great job training these students for the workforce.”
Each community partner contributes $28,100 annually for the students to work for different departments while the money pays for their tuition for school.
Ninth grader Wayde Bonchu in the Grasselli library, 10th grader Taylor Grayson in the mail center, 11th grader Kevin Turk in Information and Technical Services and 12th grader Trudi Middlebrooks in Center for Service and Social Action, have all made their individual impact to their work program departments across campus.
Mary Ellen Callahan, associate director of CSSA, emphasized that Middlebrooks has become a staple member of the staff in the office since she started in the fall 2012 semester.
“She really has embraced the work of the department,” said Callahan. “She would say there’s never a dull moment here, and I think she likes that. She has helped with marketing, posters and displays, and helps with the weekly service database. We have close to 100 student workers working in the office, and many of them have gotten to know her well.”
Middlebrooks has participated in Jesuit Day of Service, the We the People program and other community service events, going beyond the office setting and immersing herself into the JCU mission. She is interested in psychology and has sat in on classes and communicated with professors about her curiosity in the field.
Grayson, another St. Martin De Porres student, said she was grateful that students in the mailroom help her with any homework questions she might have and give her advice about high school as well as college life.
“I noticed how nice and welcoming they were when I first got here,” Grayson said. “One girl told me that it’s only going to get harder, but if you keep the ambition and motivation, you can go further and live a good life. It is a learning experience and has helped me grow as a person.”
Shuleva added, “Some of our partners may say that it fulfills the need for them to be involved in their local community, where other partners would say that we are helping to develop young people who, down the road, may end up being employees of theirs. It’s up to the greater Cleveland community to build a skilled, well-educated workforce.”
Je Lem, ITS senior client/server specialist, has been very impressed with his St. Martins student, Kevin Turk, since he started in ITS his sophomore year.
“Kevin does a lot for us. He is enthusiastic and is willing to do anything. I have had him replace hard drives in lab computers, and that’s probably the most difficult thing he could do. He definitely likes to push himself and he knows that it will pay off in the future,” Lem said.
As for student Wayde Bonchu, she said the opportunity allows her to have an advantage when applying to colleges.
“I’m going to be able to do a lot when I graduate,” said Bonchu. “I’m going to know basic office procedures, how to work the library and communicate with older people to set up connections.”
According to Shuleva, St. Martin De Porres is a private, Catholic school with rigorous and unique academic standards. She said that the school’s goal is to “not just graduate students from high school, but also from college.”
“The corporate work study program is so much more than simply training a student on how to use your database, or how to file using your system,” said Shuleva. “The true pleasure and joy of this program comes from seeing those relationships build and seeing our students rise to the level they build.”