Cambridge Housing Alliance’s Workforce Program visits Harvard

Rose Lincoln/Harvard Staff Photographer

3 min read

Nearly two-dozen students from the Cambridge Housing Authority’s (CHA) Workforce Program recently participated in the group’s annual visit to Harvard’s campus to take part in a series of programs designed to bolster career exploration and college awareness. This event is a component of the Project Teach program that has been bringing students to Harvard for more than 25 years.

The day began in Harvard’s historic Annenberg Hall, where they ate lunch andwere joined by current Harvard Graduate School of Education (HGSE) students who talked with them about post-secondary plans. They then visited HGSE’s Education Innovation Studio and maker space.

While there they built, discovered, and created items such as homemade flashlights, light-up progress charts for patients in recovery, and even name badges for retail employees that lit up to indicate if they were available to assist a customer. They also heard from Marc Raila, the Education Innovation Studio’s administrator.

The activities were all in an effort to get students thinking about career trajectories and plans, and what types of options they thought they were most interested in. They were then challenged to go deeper and create a prototype of something — anything — that could be an asset in a particular career or help them solve a potential problem.

Students had fun brainstorming ideas from how to create glow-in-the-dark bandages to building mini-flashlights for emergency workers, to even thinking through how they might design a spaceship. They challenged themselves to think through various constraints or hurdles someone in that particular field may face and offer possible solutions to those potential problems.

“It was difficult, but having people constantly check up on you to see if you are understanding the content and understanding what you are doing made it easier to finish it [the project],” said CHA student Esther Georges. “It put a new career in my mind that I didn’t know I wanted to do. I thought I would work with children, but I learned about being a sonographer and still work with children. I didn’t know that I could do that.”

“I never thought that you could use the cooper tape to make electricity,” said Weshtanya Perdre. “I also enjoyed the way we were creating things based on our future career goals and problem solving.”

The students received The Career Handbook: The Ultimate Guide to Planning Your Future, to encourage them to think more deeply about what’s next, learn about different career options, and help facilitate conversations at home.

CHA’s Workforce Program is an after school educational enrichment and work-readiness program for low-income teens who live in Cambridge Public Housing.

“We’re always incredibly excited to welcome the CHA Workforce Program to campus,” said Joan Matsalia, associate director of Harvard’s Public School Partnerships team, which runs the initiative. “Through Harvard’s Project Teach program, we’re pleased to be able to help support the CHA program in helping to ensure that students make informed decision about their post-secondary options and success.”