20 Years Later, Summer Jobs Program Still Giving Urban Youth a Chance to Succeed

Come June the BBA Summer Jobs Program will celebrate its 20th anniversary. After a record setting year of providing paid internships to 57 Boston Public High School students, the program will have reached more than 440 diverse Boston youth.

As the 2013 program nears kickoff, the BBA and the Private Industry Council are busy reviewing applications, conducting interviews, and matching the students to firms and law offices. During this process, we came across the application of Destynie Jean-Baptiste, a junior at Urban Science Academy. Her reference came from her Humanities teacher, Isabel Perez -- who herself participated in the BBA Summer Jobs Program 12 years ago as a student at English High. We touched base with Isabel to see what about this program has stayed with her after all these years.

Here’s what she had to say:

“During the summer before my junior year of high school, I participated in the BBA Summer Jobs Program. I was placed at Goodwin Procter in Downtown Boston. I still remember walking up to building and being completely intimidated.  This was a different setting, a world away from everything I knew and expected to know growing up in the inner city. Yet, everyone there was incredibly welcoming. They cared about who I was and who I wanted to be. They asked questions and provided answers about what it was like being part of the legal profession.

While I did not end up working in the legal field, it created an incredible amount of insight about what it meant to be a part of a professional community. Participating in this program allowed me to feel secure in the knowledge that I could be accepted into an environment like that, and you can never know what that means to a kid growing up in the same socio-economic conditions that I did. What I mean is that given the conditions we are born into in the inner city, there is often a lack of expectation attached. And yet in those offices that idea was turned on its head. It is why today I encourage my kids to pursue this opportunity, because for them this exposure can lead them to believe in themselves in ways that they never expected either.”

It’s clear that Isabel’s experience stayed with her, and that this is a success story. The BBA Summer Jobs Program goes far beyond a single summer, and in Isabel’s case, changed the trajectory of her life. As Isabel says in her letter referring Destynie to the program:

“Destynie is an incredibly promising young woman, and if afforded the chance to enter your program, will continue down a path of personal and academic growth. It may even be, that years from now, she will find herself writing this same type of letter for someone else.”

Giving diverse inner city youth a chance at success is what the BBA’s Summer Jobs Program is all about. For the record, Destynie was accepted to the program, and will be one of the 57 students commuting to downtown Boston for her summer internship, just as Isabel did 12 years ago.

The Summer Jobs Program is a partnership between the BBA, the Mayor’s Office and the Private Industry Council. For more information on the program or to take a student, contact Public Service Programs Coordinator Katie D’Angelo at kdangelo@bostonbar.org.