Newark's People's Prep Charter initiatives highlight mission of college and career

People's Preparatory Charter highlights its student internship program at a two-day event of student presentations each year. Credits: Elana Knopp
People's Preparatory Charter High School sophomores Izabre Springer and LaMarr Lovius are currently interning as teacher's assistants as part of the school's internship program. Credits: Elana Knopp
People's Prep Charter High School junior Tamia Wood, who interns at Global Shapers in downtown Newark, said the internship program has taught her a number of real-world skills. Credits: Elana Knopp

Newark, NJ—Izabre Springer is only in tenth grade, but the People’s Preparatory Charter School sophomore already has her future mapped out.

“I want to go to TCNJ, then become a doctor,” Izabre said.

Springer has already toured college campuses and is currently interning as a teacher’s assistant at the school as part of its student internship program.

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Some of Izabre's internship responsibilities include grading papers, clerical work and other duties.

"It gives me a feeling of maturity," she said. "I get to interact with teachers and parents."

And then there’s LaMarr  Lovius, also a sophomore, who is thinking about attending Rowan University as part of his journey towards a career in education.

“I want to be a math professor,” said Lamar, who also interns as a teacher’s assistant at the school.

The students represent the core values of Newark’s only independent public charter high school—rigorous college preparation and real-world learning that goes beyond the classroom walls.

With a student population of 380, students at People’s Prep come from a wide range of educational backgrounds, with 23 percent of the school's students classified as having disabilities. Ninety-five percent of its graduates will be first generation college graduates.

Freshman through senior students are offered the opportunity to experience college and career through the school's college campus bus tour and internship program initiatives, which both serve to reinforce the pathway to college, career and beyond.

The school is currently hosting its annual two-day internship presentation program, where students get a chance to showcase their experiences as members of Newark's intern workforce.

The credited internship program, launched in 2013, places students with more than 20 different external organizations such as Teach for America, United Way, University Hospital, Newark City Hall and NJPAC, among others.

Forty-five students are participating in the program this year, with teacher advisors placing students with unique work-related opportunities that emphasize the importance of off-campus learning, serving the Newark community and gaining a strong understanding of workplace expectations. 

During their internships, students in grades 10-12 get the opportunity to learn a variety of skills including website design, event planning, customer assistance and teaching, among other skills, in preparation for future jobs and careers.

After participating in 10 hours of training and while receiving ongoing professional development, students intern twice a week from September to June, totaling five hours per week, or 175 hours throughout the school year.

“People’s Prep implements a multi-tiered plan to ensure every student is becoming prepared and focused for a career, rather than just a job,” People’s Prep Founder Jess Rooney said.  “Our internship program provides our students with hands-on, off-campus experiences that match any public school in the country. At its core, this unique work-study opportunity is made possible because an effort is made to build trust with key businesses and institutions around the Newark area.”

People's Prep junior Tamia Wood interns at Global Shapers, a youth advocacy and engagement organization located in downtown Newark and said the experience has changed her life.

“It got me community oriented,” Wood said. “It’s really made me aware of what we have in Newark. It’s also helped me with time management and has improved my organizational skills.”

Rooney noted the commitment of the school's strategic partners in mentoring PPCS students, as well as developing their professional skills, work ethic and industry-specific knowledge.

“Like other aspects of our curriculum, we believe that words such as ‘opportunity’ must be backed up with world-class experiences and a pathway for success," Rooney said. "The two-day showcase is an opportunity for the People’s Prep community to come together and learn first-hand of the work of this year’s interns and the professional passions that are being developed.”

This year, 23 strategic partners from the Newark area are supporting the program, including University Hospital, United Way, ShopRite, NJPAC, Newark Public Library, City of Newark's Department of Law and Gadget Software. 

In addition to the presentations, each student is required to complete a Capstone Project to be presented at the end of their internship in which they must propose and implement a solution to a problem their work-site faces.

The initiative comes on the heels of the school's all-day college bus tour, held four times a year, that provides students with an opportunity to experience a variety of colleges and is an integral part of the school's mission of college readiness.

"I think the college trip naturally and by design do different things for different students,"  Rooney said. "For the older kids, it's a lot about kids matching themselves to college and on the brink of making the transition. For the younger kids, it's all about college and knowledge."

Last week, students in grades 9-12 visited more than a dozen college campuses throughout New Jersey and Pennsylvania including The College of New Jersey, Rowan, Felician, Temple University, Fairleigh Dickinson, Lafayette College, William Paterson, New Jersey City University, Centenary University, Seton Hall, Saint Peter's University and the College of St. Elizabeth.

A full campus tour, scheduled information sessions and direct access to the student body is provided to each group of visiting People’s Prep students.

“Every high school student deserves to see what college looks, smells, and feels like and these visits are an important anchor in our multi-facetted college-readiness strategy,” Rooney said. “It is important for all students to not only imagine a college campus in their future, but to also vividly picture themselves on a campus.”

In addition, a number of colleges visit People’s Prep throughout the year to recruit  students, with one-on-one interviews individually scheduled.

“Proactive visits ensure every student can see firsthand what college is like and ask questions of college students and staff directly,” Rooney said. “By the time our students are submitting applications, they will have visited at least 16 different campuses throughout their years at People’s Prep and, thanks to the local universities and colleges that dedicate their staff and time, our students feel confident and knowledgeable about their best potential matches and their overall future."

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