Last summer, students talked with Lisa Maxwell (second from left), assistant director of employment at HGSE, about the benefits of the program and where they were headed next. Thelora Marseille (from left), was going to the University of Massachusetts, Boston; Eunice Offre was bound for Colby-Sawyer College; and Tewodrose Woldemariam was set to attend Regis College.

File photo by Kris Snibbe/Harvard Staff Photographer

Campus & Community

Putting local youth to work

4 min read

Harvard opens doors for Boston, Cambridge young people through Summer Youth Employment Program

For Bill Cain, assistant director of recruitment services for the Office of Human Resources, the bar for Harvard’s Summer Youth Employment Program is pretty high. And he couldn’t be happier about that.

“Feedback is always positive, but last year, 100 percent of Harvard hiring managers said they would participate in the program again,” he said. The program employs local high school students from Boston and Cambridge on Harvard’s campus during the summer months. For some young people, it’s their first job.

Cain, who has been coordinating and overseeing the program for eight years, added that those high approval ratings go both ways, since many students come back to work at Harvard for several summers. Any department is eligible to participate in the program, whether the position is full-time or for just a few hours a week.

The cost of having a teen employee work full-time the whole term from July to August is less than $2,500, and hours and dates can be adjusted to fit a department’s needs and means.  The program also supports Harvard staff members in submitting job postings, receiving student résumés, and advising how to manage high school students.

Josh Bruno is the school-to-career and employer engagement director with the Boston Private Industry Council, which recruits, interviews, and prepares Boston teens for their summer jobs and coordinates with Harvard. He has a special appreciation for the initiative, since his own first job was in Widener Library.

“I was literally in the stacks,” he said, working amid the microfilm and microfiche.

Now running the private-sector component of Boston Mayor Thomas Menino’s summer jobs campaign, Bruno says Harvard has been “a historic partner” in putting public school students to work during summers.

“A lot of our students are contributing to their family income,” Bruno said, adding that any public school student can apply by contacting a Boston Private Industry Council counselor.  In Cambridge, teens can apply to work at Harvard through the Mayor’s Summer Youth Employment Program. “At a place like Harvard, students meet people they might never otherwise encounter,” Bruno said. “And on the employer side, they get super-talented, very motivated young people to come help them out.”

Speaking from the Harvard perspective, Cain hopes that more departments will connect with the program.

“These are talented, hard-working kids, and they bring a great perspective and energy to the workplace,” he said. “So many of them never imagined they would ever set foot in Harvard … so this breaks down the idea that Harvard is out of reach or inaccessible to them.

“The student gets wonderful work experience, and Harvard gets a great employee for the summer,” he said.

“Harvard has worked with Cambridge and Boston for more than a decade to provide employment opportunities for local youth, and we are really encouraging hiring managers to bring on a teen in their department this summer,” said Christine Heenan, vice president of Harvard Public Affairs and Communications. That department and human resources have teamed up again this year to support and promote the program to the Harvard community.

“This is a long-term partnership with a long-term future,” she added.

As the students earn and learn, Boston and Cambridge get Harvard’s support in their efforts to provide an enriching summer experience and prepare local teens to meet the demands of the workplace.

“The city is committed to teen employment and understands the important impact that early work experiences have on a young person’s long-term success,” said Sue Walsh of Cambridge’s Office of Workforce Development. “Harvard continues to be our most important partner in providing quality work opportunities to Cambridge youth, hiring more teens than any other employer/organization in the city.”

For more information on the program, please call 617.496.4213 or visit the Harvie website and click on the link Summer Youth Employment Program. Hiring managers can learn about how their departments can make a difference in young, motivated students’ lives through summer jobs.