The Martha’s Vineyard Youth Leadership Initiative (MVYLI) prevailed over blizzard conditions Friday and held its sixth annual Job Shadow Day and reception. Over a dozen Martha’s Regional High School students shadowed various professionals and gained insight into prospective future careers.
Friday night, after a last-minute, weather-induced change of location, a small group of students and their mentors attended a reception in the Harbor View Hotel to talk about their experience and receive a certificate. The howling wind and snow prevented many from attending, but for those present, it was a warm and inspiring event.
“The program is really about trying to find someone that matches a student’s passions,” MVYLI career coach Grace Burton-Sundman said. “It’s a chance for them to investigate these careers and experience them, rather than just reading about them in a book. I always think about it as an informational interview, going in and seeing the reality of what the job would be.”
MVYLI is a project of the Stone Soup Leadership Institute, a Martha’s Vineyard nonprofit organization founded in 1997, which works to “train the next generation of Island leaders” and provide “Vineyard youth with tools, training, and leadership development opportunities.”
This year, MVYLI expanded the experience from a “job shadow day” to a “career mentoring program,” a four-month-long program with weekly workshops that help prepare students to maximize their mentoring experiences. The students developed bios and headshots to include in a professional portfolio, researched their potential career pathways, worked with their mentors, and utilized other opportunities such as internships.
The group consists mainly of junior and senior high school students, although it is open to all students. Typically about 10 to 20 students participate. Although MVYLI sets up the mentorship opportunities, the students meet independently with their mentors.
“Aside from what they’re learning about the career, they’re learning from the whole process about what to wear, how to present themselves, all the mannerisms, and how to network,” Ms. Sundman said. “For them to experience this at their age, it makes things so much easier later on in life.”
Tours and long talks
Friday night, a group of about 20 students, mentors, and parents showed up at the job shadow day reception. Prior to the ceremony, everyone stood in small groups, chatting and sipping coffee.
Taynara Goncalves, a senior, and Camilla Prata, a junior, spent Friday shadowing Dr. Karen Casper, an emergency medicine physician at the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital. Despite the snow, it was a slow day, they said, which gave them an opportunity to talk one-on-one with Dr. Casper and tour the hospital facility.
“The emergency room can either be slow or very chaotic, and you have a little bit of everything,” Ms. Goncalves said. “It’s not just one specific field, so I thought that was cool.”
“Especially in the emergency room, all the doctors have to work as a team,” Ms. Prata said. “In order for it to be a successful operation, they all have to know what’s going on and collaborate.”
Ms. Goncalves has been in the MVYLI program since she was a freshman, which she said has been very helpful over the years, especially since she will be the first in her family to attend college.
“I got to shadow doctors and see different areas that I could possibly work in,” she said. “I’ve always wanted to go to college, but since I’m the first one, my parents don’t always know that much about what you do. I know that if I need any help, I can go to MVYLI.”
Ms. Prata agreed, and said she will continue in the MVYLI program during her senior year.
“This program has been such a great opportunity, especially because they help with college and scholarships,” she said.
High school senior Chris Aring was paired with Galen Ho, an electrical engineer, former president of BAE Systems Inc., and current president of a management consultant company, among many other ventures and roles.
Mr. Ho said his involvement in the mentorship program started “7,000 miles away” when he met MVYLI director Marianne Larned at a venture startup summit in Hawaii. Friday, he traveled from his hometown in Beverly to meet with Mr. Aring. “I’m just here to try to do something for a student, share my experiences, provide some advice, and be a contact for the program when it’s necessary,” Mr. Ho said.
Mr. Aring said he is also interested in being an engineer.
“It’s not too often that you get to meet people like Galen, who are so experienced in the field and have so much knowledge to share,” he said. “I learned a lot about my life through him, and through our talk I realized things about myself that I didn’t know before.”
Agents of change
Following the informal period of chatting and coffee, everyone was seated for a brief award ceremony. Each participant received a certificate of accomplishment.
“When I was in graduate school studying education, I was really interested in agency and what it is that inspires young people to become agents of change in their life, in the world, and in their communities,” MVYLI project coordinator Gia Winsryg-Ulmer said. “One of the things through my research that I found was that mentorship is this really powerful thing.”
She said it was amazing to watch the student’s “unique genius” emerge.
“Thank you to the mentors who are here, because it’s this connection that we need to build more of,” she said. “It’s not just for the individual, it’s for our communities to become more connected and more resilient through programs like this.”
The students and mentors in attendance spoke about their experience and what they learned through the mentorship program, many citing skills such as leadership, communication, and resiliency.
Student Arden Bezahler was paired with Mr. Ho’s wife, Patricia Fae Ho, an educator and advocate for women’s rights who has held many leadership positions with nonprofit organizations. Ms. Ho said she told Ms. Bezahler to see and take opportunities, be self-sufficient, independent, and adaptable, and solve problems.
Student Aurora Austin was paired with Lauren Vukota, the lead occupational therapist at Martha’s Vineyard Hospital. “She talked about the best things and the worst things in her job,” Ms. Austin said. “It was nice to have somebody be honest with me, because things are not always going to be fantastic.”
Student Daniel Gaines was paired with Bret Stearns, the natural resource department director for the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah), and Adam Turner, executive director of the Martha’s Vineyard Commission. Mr. Gaines said he learned the importance of effective communication, especially between multiple parties.
Student Sara Poggi was paired with Prudy Carter-Donovan, a family nurse-practitioner at Island Health Care. “It was really cool to see how she got to her path, and why she didn’t go the doctor route,” Ms. Poggi said. “All of her ideas seemed to be what I wanted to do as well.”
In addition to those in attendance Friday night, student Elijah LaRue was paired with Al Badger, a former athlete, teacher, and high school administrator; student Iris Albert shadowed Dr. Richard Montilla, a plastic surgeon and teacher; Patrick Best and Skyler Ignacio-Cameron were mentored by Yuki Honjo, head of McLane Research Laboratories in Falmouth; Taber Caron shadowed Tamara Hersh, co-owner and pharmacist at Conroy Apothecary, and Dave Caron, Martha’s Vineyard Hospital director of pharmacy; and Bella Chimes was mentored by Nancy Slonim Aronie, a writer, teacher, and former commentator for National Public Radio.